What is the maximum weight staff are allowed to lift?

  • Guidelines used to exist stipulating safe acceptable weight limits for workers of certain age and sex. These limits no longer apply and are not found in the current Manual Handling Code of Practice 1990.
  • These limits no longer apply as it has been recognized that different individuals no matter what their age or sex, have differing physical capabilities.
  • For example two male adults of the same age, can have very different body strength and applying a standard weight limit to them both may be unsafe.
    The emphasis now is on the need for each manual handling situation to be assessed in terms of risk, based on its particular characteristics, as listed on the OHSIM Manual Handling Checklist including: size and shape of load, time frames, personnel skill, distance to be carried and work heights.
  • As a general guide for lifting, lowering or carrying loads, the Manual Handling Code of Practice 1990 suggests the following to help prompt action on addressing manual handling risks:
    - in seated work, it is not advisable to lift loads in excess of 4.5kgs
    - risk of injury increases significantly when weights between 16kgs and 55kgs are being handled so these tasks require special attention in risk assessment. Mechanical assistance and/or team lifting should be provided to reduce injury risk in these circumstances
    - no person should be required to handle weights over 55 kgs without mechanical aids or team lifting.

What work techniques can help prevent manual handling injuries?

Good manual handling technique can help to prevent injury and incorporates the following steps:

A. Planning the lift

  • check start and finish heights and ensure clear pathways
  • for over 16kg use mechanical aids or a trained lifting team
  • consider your own capacity after extended leave or illness

B. Performing the lift

  • warm up first, test the weight of the load
    start with smaller loads
  • use whole hand grip
  • for good balance, use a wide base of support with feet shoulder width apart
  • use smooth motions and hold the load close to the body
  • maintain the natural curves of the spine as you move through the lift
  • use hip and knee joints to bend to the object rather than bending the spine in exaggerated curves
  • do not twist or bend the back sideways

Are there any recommended stretches or exercises to help reduce injury risk?


Upper back stretch

Bend elbows and pull back at shoulder blades as far as possible

Return arms to the front and repeat 3 to 4 times

Low back stretch

Place hands on back of hips and lean backwards while lifting chest

Return to upright position and repeat 3 to 4 times

Shoulder and upper back

Stand straight with arms relaxed at the sides

Roll shoulders in a backwards motion 5 to 6 times

Side lunge

Lunge slowly to the left and hold in position for 2 to3 seconds. Return to the upright position.

Repeat to the left side. Repeat sequence 3 to 4 times

Lateral back stretch

Stand straight with arms by side. Bend smoothly to the left side and return to the middle position.

Bend to the right side and repeat 3 to 4 times.

What if I feel discomfort?

  • report it to your supervisor and report the incident using RiskWare
  • apply ice initially and rest the area
  • it is often normal to feel more pain 1-2 days after strenuous muscle activity but then it should subside
  • apply heat, stretches and massage to the area
    keep active to hasten recovery
  • consult your GP and the OHSIM Office on x14335 if the pain does not settle quickly
  • you and your supervisor should review the task and look to control the risks following the University's OHSIM principles. OHSIM information