Taking care of your back is an important aspect of working safety.

Most jobs involve carrying out some type of manual task using your body to move or hold an object, people or animals. Manual tasks cover a wide range of activities including:

  • stacking shelves;
  • lifting or lowering heavy objects;
  • repetitive movement such as keyboard tasks;
  • work where posture is awkward.

Some manual tasks are hazardous and may cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including back problems.

Supervisors must ensure that, in consultation with you, they:

  • identify any hazardous manual tasks in areas for which they are responsible;
  • do a risk assessment for any manual tasks that are identified as hazardous;
  • implement controls to eliminate or minimise the risks.

Controls might include:

  • changing the design or layout of work areas (eg workstation design, working heights, working position, work space);
  • changing the nature, size, weight or number of items handled (eg purchasing products in smaller loads);
  • using mechanical aids (eg lifting hoists, hand trucks, trolleys);
  • changing the system of work (eg adjust workload and pace to accommodate demands of the manual task);
  • changing the work environment (eg providing fans or air-conditioning, keeping floors clean and free from clutter, proving lighting appropriate to the task);
  • job rotation, rest breaks.

If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, you should stand up, stretch and walk around regularly – a 3 - 5 minute break every 30 minutes is recommended.

The Code of Practice Hazardous Manual Tasks provides practical guidance on how to manage the risk of musculoskeletal disorders arising from hazardous manual tasks in the workplace.

The WHS Unit will coordinate back care sessions and manual handling training when requested. Please contact the WHS Unit .