What Types Of Manual Workplace Tasks Are Considered Hazardous

June 2, 2023


Manual workplace tasks refer to any activity that involves lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, or moving a load by hand or bodily force. These tasks are common in many industries, including construction, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. However, manual workplace tasks can also be hazardous and can cause injuries to workers if they’re not performed correctly.

What Is A Hazardous Manual Task?
First off, not all manual workplace tasks are hazardous. But a manual task can become risky and unsafe if one or several of these factors are present:

  • Requires repetitive movement
  • Has high or sudden force
  • Involves exposure to vibration
  • Has sustained or awkward posture

Over 28% of workplace injuries were reported as caused by manual tasks. And the most common injury that’s mainly caused by hazardous manual tasks is musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). MSDs usually include injuries such as strains and sprains on the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. MSD injuries can have long-term health impacts on your employees.
Identifying hazardous manual tasks may help you manage them and find effective safety measures to protect your workers from injuries. This article will discuss these hazardous manual workplace tasks in detail and provide tips on how to prevent injuries to create a safer work environment for everyone.

  1. Working At Heights
    Working at heights is a hazardous manual task that involves working on elevated surfaces, such as ladders, scaffolds, roofs, and platforms. Falls from heights can lead to severe injuries or fatalities, which is why it’s crucial for you to administer safety measures to protect your site workers.To prevent injuries from working at heights, provide your workers with fall protection equipment, such as harnesses, lanyards, and anchor points, to prevent falls from heights. Moreover, set up sturdy platforms and scaffold brackets so your workers can work in hard-to-reach areas more safely and comfortably. You can work with scaffolding labour hire services to ensure that scaffolding is erected and dismantled by competent and trained personnel.
    Your workers should also receive regular training about the proper work practices when working at heights, including how to recognise fall hazards, properly use fall protection equipment, and safely access and exit elevated work areas.

    Lastly, strictly implement administrative controls, such as work permits, hazard assessments, and emergency response plans, to ensure that your workers are aware of the risks associated with working at heights and know how to respond to emergencies. With these safety measures, you can reduce workers’ risk of injuries and slip-and-fall accidents when working at height.

  2. Lifting And Carrying Heavy Objects

    Another common manual workplace task that can be hazardous to workers is lifting and carrying heavy objects. About 24% of workplace injuries were reported to be due to improper lifting of objects.Injuries from lifting heavy objects may include sprains, strains, muscle tears, hernias, and back injuries. These injuries can be acute, occurring from lifting a heavy object once, or they can be chronic, due to lifting heavy objects repeatedly over time. Furthermore, carrying around heavy objects can also increase one’s risk of slips, trips, and falls, particularly if the load is not evenly distributed.

    You can implement these safety measures to prevent injuries from carrying heavy objects:

    • Invest in mechanical aids, such as dollies, carts, and forklifts, to lift and move heavy objects. This can reduce the amount of manual lifting and carrying required and decrease the risk of injury.
    • Ensure your workers have received proper training regarding proper lifting and carrying techniques, such as lifting with their legs instead of their back, keeping the load close to their body, and avoiding twisting or jerking movements.
    • Reduce the weight of your worker’s load by breaking it down into smaller parts or using lighter materials.Through these tips, you can reduce your employees’ risk of injuries from lifting and moving heavy objects.
  3. Repetitive Motions
    Doing certain things repetitively may seem harmless at first, but the truth is, repetitive motions can also be hazardous. Even low-impact tasks like typing on the keyboard or standing for eight hours straight are considered repetitive motions that can negatively impact your workers’ overall health and well-being.
  4. Repetitive motions can cause musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and bursitis. Not to mention that doing the same tasks repetitively for a long time can cause burnout. To prevent injuries from repetitive motions, here are several safety measures you can implement in the workplace:

    • Provide your workers with ergonomic workstations designed to reduce the strain on the body. This can include adjustable chairs, desks, computer monitors, ergonomic keyboards, and mice.
    • If possible, reduce the duration and frequency of tasks that involve repetitive motions by rotating workers or providing job variety.
    • Repetitive motions can be a physically demanding task, regardless of the complexity of the job. It’s up to you to ensure that your workers are physically capable of performing their tasks safely.

  5. Awkward Postures
    Awkward postures involve working in positions that deviate from the body’s neutral position, such as reaching overhead, bending over, or twisting. The National Institute For Occupational Safety & Health states that maintaining the same awkward positions or postures for long periods every day can result in muscle fatigue, disrupted blood flow, and MSDs. Thus, it’s your responsibility to identify and address ergonomic hazards that may cause your workers to work in awkward postures.To reduce your workers’ risk of injury from awkward postures, provide them with ergonomic workstations and tools designed to minimise awkward postures. You may also provide them with personal protective equipment (e.g., back braces) to mitigate the risk of injury.
  6. Using Vibrating Tools
    Using vibrating tools is a manual workplace task that can also be hazardous. Vibrating tools are devices that produce vibrations, such as drills, saws, and sanders. Injuries from using vibrating tools can include hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis.To prevent injuries from using vibrating tools, consider the following safety measures:

    • Provide your workers with anti-vibration tools designed to reduce the intensity of vibration transmitted to the hands and arms.
    • Limit your workers’ exposure to vibrating tools by rotating workers or providing job variety.
    • Train your team on proper work practices for using vibrating tools, including how to maintain a neutral grip, how to take breaks, and how to vary their work tasks.

    Besides these safety measures, don’t forget to provide your workers with personal protective equipment, such as wrist supports and gloves, to minimise the impact of the vibration and reduce their risk of injury.

  7. Working In Confined Spaces

    Some workplaces may have areas that are considered confined spaces because although they’re not primarily designed for human occupancy, they’re still wide enough for workers to access and carry out specific tasks. Unfortunately, working in confined spaces is also considered hazardous due to its risks, such as suffocation, asphyxiation, or exposure to dangerous substances.

    Furthermore, since these confined spaces are not designed for continuous occupancy, there’s usually only one way to enter and exit that area, making it harder for workers to evacuate quickly and safely in case of emergencies.
    Thus, to minimise the risk of injuries, accidents, and fatalities while working in confined spaces, practice the following safety measures:

    • Identify and evaluate all the existing confined spaces in the workplace, and determine the hazards associated with each space.
    • Implement a confined space program that includes procedures for entering and exiting confined spaces, atmospheric testing, ventilation, and rescue.
    • Train workers in proper work practices for working in confined spaces, including how to use personal protective equipment, communicate with other workers, and respond to emergencies.
    • Provide workers with personal protective equipment, such as respirators, harnesses, and lifelines, to reduce the risk of injury.With these safety measures, you can minimise the risk of injuries and accidents for your workers when working in confined spaces.

Hazardous manual tasks can be everywhere, and it’s up to you to recognise them and find ways to minimise your workers’ risk of injury and accidents in the workplace. Lifting heavy objects, working at heights, repetitive motions, and awkward postures are only some of the manual workplace tasks that can be hazardous.

Thus, to prevent workplace injuries, ensure to provide workers with appropriate training, equipment, and a safe work environment. Workers should also know the hazards associated with manual workplace tasks and take proper precautions to prevent injuries.