Manual handling failures result in countless injuries and near misses every day.  In a recent case in QLD a business has received penalties and costs of $769,345 for manual handling failures and a “just get it done” attitude that resulted in injury to a worker.  This weeks Case Review will explore the systemic and cultural failures that led to this high penalty.

Just get it done

The worker was a tradesperson who injured his back moving a 120kg commercial kitchen benchtop.

He was instructed by his employer to move the benchtop from a back room to its location, with only the assistance of the employer, despite the initial installation requiring 5 people.

Then the employer instructed the worker to lift one end of the benchtop by himself so that it could be chocked up.

In handing down the penalty the Judge notes that  the injury was “caused by his lifting the benchtop and carrying it from the storage room to the kitchen and putting it in place”.

The business rejected responsibility for the injury and argued that the employee was responsible and was aware of the risks involved.

The Judge noted that the business breached the duty of care and failed to enact appropriate measures, like waiting for other staff (who were available) or equipment (which was available)

Learnings for Business

“Manual handling is dangerous, and large weights do not need to be involved for there to be a poor outcome.  Poor lifting, carrying and stacking practices can result in real injuries” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“There is real risk, but there is a real solution too, which only takes moments.  Lift properly, carefully and with help when required.  It is simple and as a result it is tragic when it is ignored or inadequate and injury is the result” concluded Elisha.

All businesses have a responsibility to ensure staff are trained in appropriate manual handling, and that the culture at work requires staff to stick to the training, and not “just get it done”.

Here to Help

Safety Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via  , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see;   for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)