The importance of using the correct equipment in manual tasks

Risk Matters - Spring 2021

Manual tasks are performed by all workers within local government, and are classed as physical work activities that can be defined as any activity requiring a person to use their musculoskeletal system.

If performed incorrectly, manual tasks can be hazardous. Poor manual task practices remain one of the most common causes of injury in the workplace, and the resulting injuries can place a large burden on workers, local governments, and the industry as a whole.

Examples of manual tasks include:

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Myth - only heavy lifting causes injuries

It is often accepted or perceived that lifting heavy loads is the main cause of musculoskeletal injury in the workplace, but there are three accepted causal relationships for musculoskeletal injuries:

  • Sudden damage caused by intense or strenuous manual handling or awkward lift (e.g. a ranger lifting an animal from the ground into the back of a vehicle)
  • Gradual wear and tear caused by frequent or prolonged periods of performing manual tasks (e.g. a library officer continually handling books and other library items)
  • Direct trauma caused by unexpected events (e.g. a store person walking on uneven ground carrying a large heavy carton who trips and falls)

The majority of injuries as per statistics and workers’ compensation claims are caused by gradual wear and tear over an extended period, or a combination of the three above causes.

Employing the correct use of equipment for particular roles can alleviate some of the potential risks to the worker.

Rangers embody a broad range of skills to manage a wide variety of responsibilities in their daily roles, including the maintenance of our parklands and green spaces, and attending to lost pets or injured wildlife.

Not only do rangers meet with every day pets like cats and dogs in their daily activities, they also carry out the control and rescue of many different animals, including cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, kangaroos, rabbits, poultry, birds, and reptiles. In instances like the movement of animals, it is imperative rangers do not attempt to lift animals and that the appropriate equipment is used.

Engineering controls to assist or complete the lifting of animals is the safest practice, rather than trying to “teach proper lifting technique”; as this is often can’t be done due to the behaviour of animals and livestock. The key is to protect both the ranger and animal, and as much as possible maintain a calm situation.

The use of tailgate based ramps or hydraulic lifted cages will maintain a calm situation and reduce the risk of a manual handling injury to the ranger, as demonstrated by the Shire of Mundaring.

The LGIS injury prevention team can assist your local government in assessing your manual task risks, and providing recommendations for any hazardous characteristics. If you have any questions, please contact the team on 9483 8818.

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