Topics explained – Automotive – Hazardous manual tasks in automotive workshops

Bending, stretching and reaching movements – either with high, sudden, repeated or sustained force – can lead to stress on the body, muscle strain, overexertion and injuries.

Carrying out work at the limit of reach or in awkward postures away from the body’s centre of gravity requires muscles to work harder. When these postures are held for too long, muscular or spinal injuries can occur.

Automotive workshops contain numerous activities that can involve hazardous manual tasks such as:

  • wheel and tyre fitting
  • working inside vehicle cabins
  • working under bonnets
  • working under vehicles.

Hazards and risks

Increased weight equals increased risk: People differ in height, weight and physical capacity, so it is difficult to define what is an unsafe weight for everyone. However as a general rule, if a manual task seems difficult or strenuous, then it may present a significant risk. Discomfort can be an early warning sign, especially if it reoccurs the next day or continues after days off.

The risk is not just about weight: Often the risk is due to a combination of weight and posture, such as bending forward, and movements such as holding the load away from the body or twisting, as well as the shape or configuration of the load.

Manual tasks can cause gradual wear and tear to the body: Damage to the body can build up over time.

The risk of injury is cumulative where repetitive movements or fixed/awkward postures are concerned: Regardless of how many different tasks a worker might perform each day, injury risk can exist if the total time spent performing similar postures or actions exceeds one hour.

Young and new workers: Workers who are young and still developing physical strength, and any new worker lacking experience, are at greater risk of injury.

Employer responsibilities

Employers (PCBUs) have a responsibility to:

  • manage the hazards associated with hazardous manual tasks in the automotive workshop
  • take a proactive approach to identify early any potential hazards and their level of risk
  • implement control measures to manage these risks and monitor and review the effectiveness of these measures.

Identifying hazardous manual tasks

There are several ways you can be on the lookout for hazardous manual tasks, including:

  • consulting your workers who are affected, or likely to be affected, by a manual task, as they will provide valuable information about discomfort, muscular aches and pains which can signal potential hazards
  • reviewing available information such as records of workplace injuries and accidents, inspection reports and work injury insurance claims, as they can help identify which manual tasks may cause harm
  • observing trends which may show certain tasks have more characteristics which make them hazardous.

This will help the decision process in determining which manual task hazards you need to address as a priority.

Worker responsibilities

Workers must:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety and ensure they don’t adversely affect the health and safety of anyone else.

Safety solutions

Look at reducing heavy lifting or working in sustained or awkward postures by using mechanical aids and devices (eg tyre underslides, overhead- mounted body support harnesses).

Use as much equipment to help reduce the risk of body stressing as you have available. You may already be using:

  • tools powered by compressed air
  • hoists
  • cranes and lifting hooks
  • bead breakers
  • body underslides to get under vehicles.

Other equipment and devices you can use include:

  • vacuum lifters for windscreen insertion
  • hoists when detailing
  • hip-height roller conveyors and ramps to load or move tyres
  • order picking ladders with load tables for stock access
  • pads and body tables for comfortable work in footwells and under dashes
  • castors on heavy toolboxes.

To assess which equipment may best suit your workers’ needs:

  • carry out workplace inspections and talk to your workers
  • observe manual tasks
  • check injury/hazard reports and identify any relevant contributing factors (eg slippery floors).

Other changes that can help prevent injury from hazards manual tasks include:

  • modifying the workplace layout and equipment where possible, such as automating the manual tasks or replacing hand tools with power tools
  • using lifting aids (such as jigs, slings, dollies) that are adaptable to the size/shape of handled items (eg engines, transmissions)
  • delivering goods or equipment directly to the point of use to eliminate multiple handling
  • modifying working loads (eg redistribute the weight or replace heavy items with lighter, smaller, more easily handled items)
  • redesigning work patterns or rotating workers between tasks so workers change the frequency and type of tasks done
  • ensuring everyone, especially young and new workers, has undertaken both general and specific hazardous manual task training

Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) that is:

  • suitable for the nature of the work and the hazard (e.g. workers who need to carry out tasks in extreme heat or cold, wind or rain)
  • comfortable to wear, and of a suitable size and fit
  • maintained, repaired or replaced when required
  • used or worn by workers who have been trained in its use and care.

Consult with workers before purchasing any new equipment and tools. Ensure they are designed for safe use and are a best match to both the worker and task needs.

Further information