Manual Tasks & Ergonomics

Manual Tasks

Many jobs involve the performance of manual tasks where the body is used to move or hold an object, people or animals. Manual tasks are those that require you to push, pull, lift, carry, move, hold, lower or restrain any object, person or animal, and include tasks that have repetitive actions (including typing) or sustained postures. Manual tasks include stacking shelves, working on a conveyor belt and working at a computer or on laboratory equipment.

Hazardous Manual Tasks

Some manual tasks are hazardous and may cause musculoskeletal disorders, which are the most common workplace injuries in Australia. A manual task becomes hazardous when it involves one or more of the following:-

  • Repetitive
  • Sustained
  • Sudden
  • High

  • Sustained
  • Awkward

  • Repetitive

  • Example: Prolonged use of a power tool
  • Operating mobile plant

To manage the risks associated with manual tasks, UNSW requires that:

  • individuals complete the online ergonomics training, which contains information on how to manage manual tasks, via the UNSW Moodle in myUNSW .This is a UNSW induction requirement for new staff, who are automatically enrolled. Existing staff who have not completed this induction can register via myUNSW. Contact UNSW Health and Safety at if you have any queries.
  • supervisors/managers follow the requirements of HS432 Hazardous Manual Tasks Procedure which provides information on how to identify, assess and manage hazardous manual tasks.

Office Workstations

Prolonged work at a desk or computer, and poor work station set-up are hazards that, in some circumstances, can aggravate or lead to work-related injuries or diseases, particularly of the neck, back and upper limbs.

The risk of overload of musculo-skeletal structures associated with office workstation use can be effectively managed by setting up your workstation correctly, maintaining a neutral posture and ensuring that you alternate positions periodically. UNSW requires that individuals:

  • complete the online ergonomics training (see above)
  • review the workstation set up guideline: HS705 Guide to your Computer Workstation
  • complete the workstation self-assessment checklist: HS114 Workstation Checklist                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (click this link and select the category 'Ergonomics/Manual Tasks'. Note that completion of this checklist is a requirement of staff induction).
  • take appropriate Rest Breaks and change position periodically (installation of rest-break reminder software may assist)

Ergonomic Assessments

If, after the above requirements have been met and the effects of any changes have been monitored for an appropriate period of time, a person or work group is still experiencing problems, related symptoms or needs further advice, please contact the H&S Coordinator (Hazardous Manual Tasks/Ergonomics) on 02 9385 1565 or to discuss and, if necessary, arrange a further assessment.

The individual/work area will need to provide evidence that they have completed the online Ergonomics training and provide their completed Workstation Self-assessment Checklist or Hazardous Manual Task Risk Assessment to discuss during the assessment. If the UNSW Health and Safety team is unable to provide this service directly due to resource availability, you may be directed to contact a UNSW-approved external ergonomic assessment provider. See also Funding for Workers with Disabilities or Special Needs for further information on specialist assessment services through Job Access.   

Note that, if a worker believes that their condition is substantially caused, or aggravated by work, they must report this as an incident through UNSW’s online health and safety incident report (see instructions in HS713 Guide to Reporting Hazards and Incidents

The incident report form that is completed in this system also enables the reporter to notify workers compensation to make a workers compensation claim for incidents impacting employees. If the claim is accepted, the UNSW workers compensation insurer will usually cover relevant medical and related expenses determined by them to be necessary. This may include a work station assessment arranged separately by them. For further information on workers compensation, click here or contact by phone on 02 9385 3194.

Ergonomic Equipment

Assessment of workstations and manual tasks may result in the need to purchase ergonomic equipment. For further information, see: