Manual Handling Risk Assessment in Manufacturing Industries - a focus on women

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #97 - 1996

Authors: C. Finch, G. Rechnitzer, R. Hodgson, I. Brumen & D. Caple

Full report in .pdf format [22.7MB (warning large file)]


Manual handling tasks are responsible for a large proportion of work-related injuries and long-term health problems amongst workers, particularly women, in manufacturing industries. Manufacturing industries (especially the food and metals assembly sectors) are employing a large proportion of women entering the workforce.

In Victoria (with similar Federal requirements) the manual handling regulations and the two associated codes of practice (for manual handling; for occupational overuse syndrome) require all workplaces to carry out a three phase process of risk identification, risk assessment and control of identified manual handling risks.

This project's aim was to examine the effectiveness of the prescribed processes and tools for carrying out manual handling risk assessments in the workplace.

Methodology included a literature review; detailed risk assessments carried by company staff at a total of 21 workstations in 5 companies (3 involved in food processing; 2 involved with autocomponent assembly); validation of the process of risk identification by the use of subjective means and the objective biomechanical tool RULA.

The major findings were that though the prescribed risk assessment process was somewhat cumbersome, the process did result in suitable identification of manual handling hazards. For manufacturing tasks, it was found that the Manual Handling (Occupational Overuse Syndrome) Code of Practice was most relevant to the assessed manual handling tasks. The study highlighted that unless suitable management support was in place, risk assessments would remain a low level activity and ad-hoc process.

Recommendations include simplification of the codes of practice and checksheets; upgrading of company injury data systems to be oriented towards injury prevention not just cost control; increasing the use and awareness of the codes of practice in industry. Recommendations for additional research include the need to assess the actual compliance of industry with these Regulations and risk assessments and a need for longer-term studies to evaluate the overall impact of the manual handling regulations approach in reducing injury frequency and severity.

Sponsor: Worksafe Australia