2017 OHS Regulations Changes: Hazardous Manual Handling



Hazardous Manual Handling is one key area of concern for WorkSafe as part of the OHS Regulations 2017 (Vic.) update. As a result, this is an area which SafetyZone OHS Consulting is currently assisting a number of firms to ensure compliance.

The Guidance note states ‘The hazardous manual handling part of the OHS Regulations 2017 is intended to prevent and reduce the number and severity of injuries associated with hazardous manual handling. To do this, the Regulations impose specific legal responsibilities on employers, employees, and designers, manufacturers and suppliers for the control of risk from hazardous manual handling.’

This spotlight and extended clarity is a welcome addition to the industry given Australian data over a fourteen year period (2000-2014) identifies musculoskeletal disorders (Generally, caused by manual handling tasks) account for sixty percent of all injury claims. Refer: Image 1: Magnitude of MSDs over time.

Risk Assessment Process


There are three key reasons safety professionals must consult with employees through the process of risk assessment.

  1. People undertaking tasks regularly will understand their mechanics, requirements and shortfalls to a high degree.
  2. Employees must buy-in to the changes for them to be implemented and allow the lasting changed to be created.
  3. Open consultation channels will ensure any residual risks are quickly identified and controlled with a mutual understanding for the purpose of the assessment.


As part of the OHS Regulations 2017 (Vic.) WorkSafe Victoria identifies a number of manual handling tasks which have been statistically proven to increase the likelihood of persons sustaining a musculoskeletal injury. These tasks are listed within their publication ‘Guide to Manual Handling’ as follows:

  • repetitive or sustained application of force
  • sustained awkward posture
  • repetitive movement
  • application of high force involving a single or repetitive use of force that it would be reasonable to expect that a person in the workforce may have difficulty undertaking
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • handling live persons or animals
  • handling unstable or unbalanced loads or loads that are difficult to grasp or hold

Some common examples which the SafetyZone consulting team regularly assist organisations with include:


  • Safe handling and movement of cable drum rolls
  • Repetitive lifting processes such as brick stacking


  • Management of stock within pens
  • Management of awkward loads such as feed bags


The ‘fix’ process involves two key steps:

  1. Risk analysis using the ‘hierarchy of control model’.
  2. Implementation of any changes required. These two processes must be undertaken in order for lasting results to be identified and adopted by the workforce.

Clients and students are reminded at this point of two key lessons in safety management.

  1. More than one control method should be introduced to control a hazard as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP)
  2. Training needs to be delivered to the key persons to make lasting changes.

Whilst the requirement to train appears obvious in theory, we often find they are the key steps organisations overlook when undertaking process change.


The key to continuous improvement in the reduction of musculoskeletal disorders is the ongoing review process. This is best managed by the use of a schedule to ensure systematic refresh of the assessments however must also be undertaken where the process changes or post-incident.

The key to successful risk review is ensuring key parties are available, aware of and see value in undertaking the process (buy in).

Other considerations: Ergonomics, Processes & Equipment

Whilst undertaking this process, it is often beneficial to consider the ergonomics of tools, areas and other processes impacting the task which although may appear minor, will provide incremental improvements to the task as a whole.

This can include reviewing the PPE (Do the gloves provide enough grip?), areas (is the surface level and any hazards marked?) as well as other key processes (is the material drop off point defined for forklift drivers?) to ensure any factors affecting the core process are controlled ALARP.


WorkSafe Victoria: Summary of Changes to 2017 OHS Regulations

WorkSafe Victoria: Guide to Hazardous Manual Handling

WorkSafe Victoria: Manual Handling Guide

Safe Work Australia: Manual Handling Guide

Safe Work Australia: Musculosketal Disorders Statistics