26 September 2023

WorkSafes find training won’t stop injury

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Work health and safety regulators from across the Country have found that ‘how to lift’ training programs for Australian workers are not effective.

According to the regulators ‘How to lift’ training refers to workplace interventions that see train workers in lifting techniques, including exercises for warming up, stretching and/or relying on the worker having to follow generic principles – like correct posture and not lifting things that are too heavy.

A new national position paper has been developed by a Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities working party (HWSA,) whose membership includes WorkSafe Victoria, Comcare, SafeWork NSW, SafeWork SA, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, WorkSafe Tasmania, WorkSafe WA and WorkSafe New Zealand.

Releasing the position paper, HWSA said the working group uncovered significant shortcomings in manual-handling training available to Australian workers.

“‘How to lift’ training programs do not reduce the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs),” HWSA said.

“Prevention approaches implemented within workplace settings are often overly simplistic, focusing on worker behaviour and therefore misaligned to the complex nature of MSDs,” it said.

“Despite this, a recent survey found that almost 80 per cent of employers had provided ‘how to lift’ training to their workers in the past two years.”

HMSA said ‘how to lift’ training was not, of itself, suitable and adequate training necessary to protect workers from risks of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

“It does not control either worker exposure to the risk factors or sources of risk for hazardous manual tasks,” the Safety Authorities said.

“Consistent findings from meta-analyses and systematic reviews (including reviews of reviews) have demonstrated that lifting technique training e.g. ‘how to lift’ training, is not effective in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders,” it said.

HMSA said training provided to workers should address the nature of the work, what they needed to know about the control measures, and how they were to be implemented to manage the health and safety risks associated with hazardous manual tasks.

HWSA’s five-page Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities position on ‘How to lift’ training can be accessed on Comcare’s website or the websites of the interstate Workplace Safety Authorities.

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