Simple manual handling risk filters

Employers must protect their workers from the risk of injury from handling tasks. These filters will help you identify low-risk manual handling and decide if you need to carry out a more detailed risk assessment. If you are unsure, complete a more detailed assessment.

The law does not set specific weight limits, so the guidelines are not 'safe limits' for lifting and carrying. They use broad assumptions or generalisations where, if met, the risk of injury is considered to be low. But working outside the limits is likely to increase the risk of injury, which can lead to ill health. The guidelines are derived from lifting capacity data which show differences between men and women in the population (rather than individuals).

The filter for pushing and pulling looks at the posture of your workers during pushing or pulling operations.

Lifting and lowering risk filter

  • The filter assumes that the load is easily grasped with both hands and is handled in reasonable working conditions, with the worker in a stable body position.
  • Each box in the diagram contains a filter value for lifting and lowering in that zone. The filter values in the boxes are reduced if handling is done with arms extended, or at high or low levels, as that is where injuries are most likely to happen.
  • Observe the work activity you are assessing and compare it to the diagram. First, decide which zone or zones the worker's hands pass through when moving the load. Then, assess the maximum weight being handled. If it is less than the value given in the matching box, it is within the guidelines.
  • If the worker's hands enter more than one zone during the operation, use the smallest weight. Use an in-between weight if the hands are close to a boundary between zones.

Lifting and lowering: Do I need to do a more detailed assessment?

You will need to make a more detailed assessment using for example the MAC tool or full risk assessment checklists (or equivalent) if:

  • the handling operation must take place with the hands outside the filter zones
  • the weight exceeds those in the filter
  • the handling involves torso twisting
  • the handling is more frequent than one lift every two minutes
  • the handling is done by a team
  • the handling is complex, for example the weights vary significantly or there are several start and finish locations
  • the lift does not meet the conditions given for using the guidelines (for example if the load is difficult to grasp or handle)
  • the person lifting may be at significant risk, for example new or expectant mothers, young workers, those new to the job, or those with a disability, significant health problem or recent injury

Carrying risk filter

You can apply the filter weights for lifting and lowering to carrying operations where the load:

  • is held against the body
  • is carried no further than about 10 m without resting
  • does not prevent the person from walking normally
  • does not obstruct the view of the person carrying it
  • does not require the hands to be held below knuckle height or much above elbow height

Where you can carry the load securely on the shoulder without lifting it first (for example by sliding it onto your shoulder), you can apply the filter values up to 20 m.

Pushing and pulling risk filter

In pushing and pulling operations, the load might be slid, rolled or moved on wheels. Observe the worker's general posture during the operation. If the load can be moved and controlled very easily, for example with one hand, you do not need to do a more detailed assessment. The diagrams show acceptable push/pull postures. The task is likely to be low risk if:

  • the force is applied with the hands
  • the torso is largely upright and not twisted
  • the hands are between hip and shoulder height
  • the distance moved without a pause or break is no more than about 20 m
Manekins in upright posture pushing a wheeled cage, flat trolley and tip up trolley

Pushing and pulling: Do I need to make a more detailed assessment?

You should make a more detailed assessment using for example the RAPP tool or full risk assessment checklists (or equivalent) if:

  • the posture shows that the task requires significant force, for example leaning
  • there are extra risk factors like slopes, uneven floors, constricted spaces or trapping hazards

Handling while seated

The filter values for handling operations carried out while seated, as shown in the image, are Men: 5 kg and Women: 3 kg.

Man handling 5kg and woman handling 3kg loads while seated

These values only apply for two-handed lifting and when the hands are within the green zone shown. If handling beyond the green zone is unavoidable, you should make a full assessment.

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Updated 2024-03-25