School operations

Manual Handling


This policy outlines how potentially hazardous manual handling tasks in schools are identified, assessed, controlled, monitored and reviewed.


  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic) requires the Department to provide or maintain, systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic) require the Department, so far as is reasonably practicable, to identify any hazardous manual handling undertaken, or to be undertaken, and to control and manage any associated musculoskeletal risks.
  • The principal and/or their delegate must, in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives, identify, assess, record and control, so far as is reasonably practicable, risks associated with hazardous manual handling tasks. Some common manual handling risks in schools might be transporting and storage of large boxes and containers, transporting and storage of sporting equipment, stage set-up and display of artwork.
  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Service and local regional officers who can provide free advice on managing risks related to manual handling.
  • The Manual Handling Procedure (in the Procedure tab) must be followed, and sets out the practical step-by-step instructions for implementing this policy.
  • This policy forms part of the Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Management System, refer to OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview — Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing for further information.


The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives (HSR), must ensure:

  • manual handling tasks that are potentially hazardous are identified, assessed and added to the ‘Hazard Description’ column of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Risk Register
  • when assessing the level of risk for tasks that have been identified as potentially hazardous, current risk controls implemented and the following risk factors are taken into account:
    • task (for example, undertaken for long periods of time)
    • individual (for example, skills and training level)
    • load (for example, too heavy, too large)
    • environment (for example, stairs to navigate, lack of space)
  • that a more detailed task based risk assessment is completed, if after identifying and assessing manual handling tasks in the OHS Risk Register, it is found that:
    • there is a high or extreme level of risk identified or
    • there is uncertainty about the level of risk associated with activities to be undertaken, or
    • there is limited understanding and/or knowledge about individual manual handling tasks to be performed
      then, employees, in consultation with the principal and other relevant employees, may carry out the task based risk assessment using the Risk Assessment Template or its equivalent and develop a Safe Work Procedure to be displayed adjacent to where hazardous manual handling tasks are carried out
  • eliminate or reduce the level of risk associated with hazardous manual handling tasks so far as is reasonably practicable, by considering the risk factors in the Manual Handling Procedure
  • implement and record additional controls in the OHS Risk Register and, if used, the Risk Assessment Template if:
    • specific hazardous manual handling tasks are not understood
    • individual factors need to be considered, for example, skills and level of training
    • there are issues surrounding the load to be moved (for example, too heavy, too large)
    • there are environmental considerations (for example, layout/design or work area)
    • there has been a near miss, incident or injury reported as result of manual handling task
  • ensure all employees, volunteers, visitors and casual relief teachers are informed about the potential hazardous manual handling tasks and risk controls
  • ensure that completed training is added to the OHS Training Planner/Register
  • review the effectiveness of risk controls in the OHS Risk Register and, if used, the Risk Assessment Template in consultation with the HSR and employees and communicate the outcomes to all employees and HSR

The Manual Handling Procedure provides further information on the process for meeting the above requirements.

The Manual Handling Guide is an informative resource designed to assist principals or their delegate to implement OHS requirements for manual handling.


Hazardous manual handling
Work requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain a thing if the work involves one or more of the following:

  • sustained awkward position
  • repetitive movement
  • application of single or repetitive use of unreasonable amount of force
  • exposure to vibration
  • lifting persons or animals
  • unbalanced or unstable loads
  • loads that are difficult to grasp or hold

Musculoskeletal risks
Risks of developing musculoskeletal disorders which constitute any injury, illness or disease that arises in whole or in part from manual handling in the workplace, whether suddenly occurring or over a prolonged period of time, but does not include an injury, illness or disease caused by crushing entrapment or cut resulting primarily from the mechanical operation of plant.

Department policy on controlling risks associated with hazardous manual handling in schools

Reviewed 28 October 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020


  • Schools
  • School councils


OHS Advisory Service

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