This policy outlines the requirements for schools relating to the management of risks and prevention of injury from tasks involving manual handling.


  • Principals or their delegates must identify and assess hazardous manual handling tasks and use controls to prevent or minimise the associated risk of injury.
  • Potentially hazardous manual handling tasks in schools include, but are not limited to, personal care of students, moving large or awkward items, and sustained awkward positions.
  • School staff must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others when undertaking manual handling tasks.
  • Hazardous manual handling tasks must be included in the school’s OHS risk register.
  • All school staff must complete the mandatory hazardous manual handling and ergonomics eLearn module through My LearnEDExternal Link (staff login required) as part of induction and refresh this learning every 2 years.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and school staff to be safe and well, including access to the OHS advisory service and local OHS regional support officers who can provide tailored advice on managing risks related to manual handling.


Manual handling tasks are undertaken as part of daily work. Manual handling tasks may become hazardous and injury may occur when the task requires force to lift, lower, push or pull. Hazardous manual handling can also include tasks involving supporting, holding and restraining. Manual handling is one of the leading causes of injury in schools. Common hazardous tasks include:

  • assisting students that need support to move and personal care of students
  • lifting or moving boxes or equipment
  • pushing or pulling a wheelchair or trolley
  • applying repetitive force to a keyboard, buttons or triggers, such as on machinery
  • postures involving sustained kneeling or bending over when teaching.

For school staff, injuries to the back, shoulder and knees are the most common. These types of injuries can be a result of a once off, high force movement such as lifting something heavy, or accumulated over time such as repetitive kneeling when teaching or prolonged posture during computer use.

Undertaking and performing hazardous manual handling without proper planning and precautions can result in musculoskeletal disorders which are injuries involving soft tissue, nerves, bones and joints.

When school staff are working in an office environment, they most commonly experience wrist and back strain from hazardous lengthy, repetitive work using computers. Using sound ergonomic principles can help reduce the instance of injury from these hazardous manual handling tasks. For information on workspace design and ergonomics please see the department’s Ergonomics and Workspace policy.

In some circumstances, protective physical interventions or the physical restraint of a student may be necessary for their safety or the safety of others. These actions are hazardous manual handling tasks and can lead to staff injuries. For more information on how to prevent and manage situations where protective physical interventions or physical restraint may be required, please refer to the department’s Restraint and Seclusion policy.

This policy mentions personal care and support of students which can involve manual handling. The Health Care Needs policy contains detailed information about developing student health support plans (DOCX)External Link including toileting, personal hygiene, transferring and positioning of the students.

Roles and responsibilities for managing hazardous manual handling tasks

Under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic), managing the risks related to hazardous manual handling tasks is a shared responsibility between the department, the principal or their delegate and school staff.

Department roles and responsibilities

The department must maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy working environment for school staff that prevents and reduces the risk of injuries from hazardous manual handling while working.

Principal or delegate roles and responsibilities

The principal or their delegate, in consultation with school staff who are or are likely to be affected, and health and safety representatives (HSR), where elected, must identify, assess and control the risks that are associated with hazardous manual handling tasks and document these in the school’s OHS risk register.

School staff roles and responsibilities

School staff must take reasonable care for their health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions while at work, which includes safely undertaking manual handling tasks which may be hazardous.

Any school staff who identifies or observes a hazard in the workplace must notify the principal or their delegate using the most appropriate method based on current risk and report it in eduSafe PlusExternal Link (staff login required). Where there is unacceptable risk identified, cease the associated activity, and isolate the hazard (where possible and safe to do so).

All school staff must participate in and complete mandatory manual handling training. Safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play.

Key requirements to manage manual handling in schools

Schools must:

  • report incidents, injuries and near misses as required
  • consult with school staff who are or are likely to be affected and HSRs, where elected, to identify, assess and as far as reasonably practicable eliminate manual handling hazards, documenting them in the school OHS risk register (XLSX)External Link
  • put in place risk controls to prevent injuries caused by hazardous manual handling and record these measures in the OHS risk register
  • ensure that staff complete the mandatory manual handling eLearn through My LearnEdExternal Link (eduPay login required)
  • review and improve control measures after any incident or when controls don’t effectively reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling
  • consider making available mechanical aids and supports to reduce manual handling risks, particularly if recommended through assessments by professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists or occupational rehabilitation providers
  • consider the development and display of a Safe Work Procedure (DOCX)External Link next to identified hazardous manual handling tasks if instructions for safe use are required.

The Manual Handling Procedure, in the procedure tab contains detailed, step-by-step information about how schools can meet these key requirements.

Department supports for schools

Central and regional offices provide a range of support and services to assist principals and school staff to be safe and well. These include access to local regional OHS support officers and the OHS Advisory Service who can provide free advice and onsite or remote support in relation to risk management in schools, including hazardous manual handling.

Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD)
MSD includes any injury or disorder that arises in whole or in part from manual handling in the workplace. MSD can be acute and occur suddenly or chronic and develop over a prolonged period.

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

Reviewed 04 January 2024

Policy last updated

12 October 2023


  • Schools
  • School councils


OHS Advisory Service

Was this page helpful?