In this video Michael discusses the hazards related to manual tasks at work. As always, when we’re talking about a topic, we need to make sure that we identify the hazards to do with that topic first up, and manual tasks is no different. In part 1 of this topic, Michael will focus on how you can identify these hazards.

This video is part 1 of this topic, you can check out part 2 via our blog.

Whenever we’re talking about hazards to do with manual tasks it’s really going to be important that we talk to our workers.  They will have some really important information about the types of tasks that they feel are a bit uncomfortable, hazardous, or painful. You can get some really clear, good information right off the bat by talking to our workers.

You should also have a look at incidents. They’re going to give you heaps of information about the type of tasks people are reporting as being problematic, and the type of tasks which have caused injuries in the past.

Finally, and really importantly, you just need to get out there and have a look around and observe people in their workplaces. What you’re going to be doing here is looking for specific risk factors.

When talking about risk factors for manual tasks, you need to think about 5 key things: 
  1. Repetitive or Sustained Force
  2. High / Sudden force
  3. Awkward / Sustained postures
  4. Repetition
  5. Vibration

1. Sustained Force: 

This may refer to a task that’s not particularly heavy but it’s done many times in a row over a long period of time.

You can see an example from the video of a worker leaning over and performing work in a slightly sustained bent posture there, so he’s applying force over a long period of time.  If he was to do that for a couple of minutes, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but the fact that he’s doing it all day long is the thing that makes the big difference there.

2. High or Sudden force:

Here we’re talking about those more impact type forces, for example lifting a really heavy object or possibly something like pushing or pulling a heavy pallet jack. These forces can cause injuries straight away.

3. Awkward Postures: 

Here we’re looking at any task which takes you into a really awkward, bent, flexed position.  We’ve got some good examples in the video of people getting themselves into awkward postures.

4. Repetition

This refers to any task where the frequency is very high and happens over a longer period of time.  It doesn’t have to be a high force task to be a repetitive and potentially risky task. Anyone who’s worked in an office workplace and has been using their mouse or keyboard or screen for a long period of time without rest will know just what we’re talking about here.  Even those low force tasks can add up over time.

5. Vibration

The final risk factor, vibration, is not as common. But if you’re using tools like jack-hammers or sitting on vibrating machinery such as earth-moving equipment, these vibration forces can add up over a period of time and create some risks there.

Once you’ve identify the hazardous type tasks in your workplace, you then go ahead and do your risk assessment on those tasks, which can be done in various ways.

You can use the standard risk assessment template which we’ve discussed in previous videos, and this does the job, but when it comes to manual tasks, there are some specific risk assessment tools to use.

One of them is called PErForM which is shown in the video.


PErForM is a risk assessment tool that uses the workers to identify their hazardous tasks, and the workers actually come up with a lot of control measures.

The difference between using a specific workplace or manual task risk assessment tool like PErForM and using a standard risk management process, is the fact that we look at the risks for different parts of the body.  So, the risk to someones back might be different to the risk for their shoulder.


Another one that is a little bit more complex but is still a good tool is called ManTRA.  It’s based on those same risk factors that we talked about and ManTRA is probably something that is used more by someone who really knows what their talking about when it comes to manual tasks.

Both PErForM and ManTRA are available on the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website.

That’s a bit of information about risk factors for manual tasks and the different risk assessment tools that we can use to risk assess those particular tasks. In part 2 we’re going to be looking at the specific control measures that are relevant to manual tasks.