Home - When is a big load too big for a worker to push?

UpdatesApr 20, 2017

When is a big load too big for a worker to push?

Manual handling injuries to workers still plague many industries and while some tasks pose obvious risks if undertaken incorrectly, others may not be so apparent.

For instance, what is the maximum weight that can be pushed by a staff member … 20kg, 50kg, 100kg? What if the load isn’t on wheels? Is it much less or the same?

By Jeff Salton

Manual handling injuries to workers still plague many industries and while some tasks pose obvious risks if undertaken incorrectly, others may not be so apparent.

For instance, what is the maximum weight that can be pushed by a staff member … 20kg, 50kg, 100kg? What if the load isn’t on wheels? Is it much less or the same?

Or none of the above?

Well, there is currently no maximum weight prescribed either by legislation or otherwise that may be pushed by a worker. This is because it has become widely recognised that different people have different physical capabilities, and that a weight of a load to be moved is only one of the factors that may contribute to injury.

However, as a guide, the Code of Practice – Hazardous Manual Tasks (2011) suggests that a hazardous manual task could be identified the characteristic of ‘sustained force’ which includes pushing or pulling a trolley:

Pushing loads is preferable to pulling because it involves less work by the muscles of the lower back, allows maximum use of body weight, less awkward postures and generally allows workers to adopt a forward-facing posture, providing better vision in the direction of travel.

Reduce the effort required to start the load in motion by:

Reduce the effort to keep the load moving by:

Reduce the effort needed to stop the load by:

But again, when not lifting but pushing or moving a load, there are no prescribed maximum weights or methods and each ‘task’ should be assessed on its unique risks.

Managing the risks

Work health and safety legislation provides that hazardous manual tasks have to be identified, and the risks of lifting or moving the load must be managed. That is, the risks of strains, sprains or other injuries must be eliminated, or if that is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised.

Michael Selinger, Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook and partner at Holding Redlich lawyers, says businesses need to evaluate the weight of the load as well as all other relevant factors that may contribute to an injury.

For example, if the load to be moved is on wheels, does it need to be pushed uphill or manoeuvred downhill; is the flooring surface hard or soft; rough or smooth; inside or outside? What obstacles need to be negotiated?

It is therefore recommended that your risk assessments of all manual handling tasks are thorough and that the outcomes are conveyed to workers, so can you ensure your workers are trained to engage in the safest manual handling practices possible and that suitable risk control measures are implemented.

Copied