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Avoiding the most common worksite injuries

December 03, 2018

If you lift, lower, push, pull, carry or move something or someone, you may be performing hazardous manual handling. It’s the biggest cause of injuries to construction workers. It could be unsafe if it involves: 

  • repeated, sustained or high force
  • sustained awkward posture
  • repetitive movements
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • handling people or animals
  • loads that are unstable, unbalanced or hard to hold .

Hazardous manual handling can lead to injuries such as: 

  • sprains and strains
  • back injuries
  • soft-tissue injuries to wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs
  • hernias
  • chronic pain

These types of injuries can affect your ability to work. Early signs and symptoms can progress into conditions which have long-term effects, and in some cases can be career-ending. In the past five years, SafeWork Australia has accepted more than 23,340 injury claims made by construction workers for these injuries. Around 54% of those workers needed one or more weeks off work.* 

Manual handling – contributing factors 

Typical risk factors that can increase the risk of injury include: 

  • Working in a fixed posture for a prolonged period of time
  • Handling awkward / heavy objects over uneven ground
  • Trying to lift long objects without a form of assistance 
  • Not wearing personal protective equipment when handling objects – deep lacerations 
  • Incorrect placement of hands when handling an object – serious crushing injuries

Reducing or eliminating risks

  • Stop & Think
  • Grip the load firmly, never bend, twist and lift
  • Keep the load close to the body
  • Push don’t pull
  • Avoid reaching
  • Wear appropriate PPE (e.g. – gloves and safety equipment) where required
  • Use mechanical aids or team lifts whenever possible
  • Training / Instruction / Supervision – provide adequate explanation, guidance and direction; always follow safe work practices

Professional advice about manual handling

If you’re an apprentice, your Host Trainer, supervisor, or HIA Apprentice Field Officer can provide advice about managing the risks associated with manual handling. If you’re a Host Trainer, your HIA Apprentice Field Officer or the Safety Team at HIA are able to offer further information and advice on modifying the workplace to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries.  Alternatively you can contact your state/territory WHS regulator.


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*Source SafeWork Australia Construction Industry Profile