Chapter 16: Biomechanical Hazards

Chapter 16: Biomechanical Hazards


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as a result of manual tasks are responsible for nearly half of all workers’ compensation claims in Australia. While the causation of MSDs is multi-factorial, biomechanical hazards creating body-stressing forces and movements are the major cause of such injuries. Assessing the risk of MSDs and developing effective control measures requires an understanding of how forces and movements damage human anatomical structures and the factors impacting on the risk of injury. The generalist Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professional has a key role in identifying and assessing the risk of biomechanical hazards; however, specialist ergonomic advice may be required for analysis of risk factors and identification of risk control priorities. A framework is provided for designing and implementing controls through a ‘participatory ergonomics’ approach.

Keywords: biomechanics, injury, musculoskeletal disorder, MSD, ergonomist, ergonomics

First year of publication: 2012
Current Version : 2012

Chapter 16: Biomechanical Hazards

Table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Historical context
3 Extent of the problem
4 Understanding biomechanical hazards
4.1 Role of biomechanical hazards in causation of MSDs
4.2 Assessing the risk of biomechanical hazards
5 Legislation and standards
6 Controlling biomechanical hazards
6.1 Elimination
6.2 Designing controls: A participative approach
6.3 Monitor and review
6.4 Record keeping
7 Implications for practice
8 Summary
Key authors and thinkers

Robin Burgess-Limerick BHMS(Hons), PhD
Professor of Human Factors, Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre University of Queensland

Robin Burgess-Limerick has undertaken research in the area of manual tasks injury prevention since 1990. A certified professional ergonomist since 1992, Robin is a past-president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia. He has received numerous awards for research including the John Lane award (HFESA Inc); an Australian Coal Association Research Program Research Excellence Award; and National Academy of Sciences (USA) Senior Research Associateship within the Mining Injury Prevention Branch, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh Research Laboratory.

Peer reviewers

Professor Timothy Ackland PhD, FASMF
Head, School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia

Dr Gary Dennis BHS(Hons), PhD, CPE
Managing Director, ErgoEnterprises Pty Ltd Adjunct Lecturer, University of Queensland.

Learning Outcomes: Biomechanical Hazards

The OHS Body of Knowledge takes a conceptual approach which enables it to be applied in different contexts and frameworks.

To optimise its value for education and professional development learning outcomes have been developed for each technical chapter in the Body of Knowledge.

The learning outcomes as described give an indication of what should be the capabilities of an OHS professional; it is up to those developing OHS education programs, OHS professionals planning their CPD or recruiters or employers selecting or developing people for the OHS function to consider the required breadth vs. depth .

Please read the section on using the learning outcomes before delving into the leaning outcomes of the individual chapters.

The numbers against each learning outcome refer to the chapter number of the BOK download page. No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, .13, 14, 15.)

Find Out More About Using the OHS BOK Learning Outcomes

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AIHS Webinar: Sit-Stand Desks - Are they worth it?


Date: 2019
James Allan, WHS Advisor, RFI

Organisations over the last couple of years have invested or considered investing in sit-stand desks as a way to combat sedentary behaviour, thus increasing the health and wellbeing of staff. However there is little research to support such expenditure. This webinar  presents some published research that critically examines advantages and disadvantages’ of investing in this equipment.