Manual material handling: approaches to assessment

Document Type


Publication details

Innes, E 2011, 'Manual material handling: approaches to assessment', paper presented to Occupational Therapy Australia 24th National Conference & Exhibition, Gold Coast Convention Centre, 28 June - 1 July 2011.

Abstract available from:


Peer Reviewed



Introduction: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for a high proportion of work-related injuries in developed countries, including Australia. Many of these disorders are the result of manual handling injuries. For that reason, the assessment of dynamic material handling, particularly lifting, is a critical component of all functional capacity evaluations (FCEs).

Aim: This presentation will discuss the assessment of lifting using various protocols and systems, the application of these protocols, and their limitations, as well as address the issue of evacuee safety when assessing dynamic material handling.

Approach: A descriptive literature review was conducted of published research to determine the reliability and validity of lifting assessments used either as stand-alone assessments or as part of an FCE. Aspects covered in the presentation will include safety and lifting techniques, determining the endpoint of testing, review of lifting assessment components in FCEs including their application and limitations, and predicting frequent lifting from occasional lifting results.

Practice Implications and Conclusion: Manual handling is assessed by all FCEs and several other assessments specifically developed to evaluate lifting. Occupational therapists are required to assess clients’ capacity for a range of lifting and manual handling tasks and need to be aware of those not all lifting evaluations are equivalent. Clinicians are encouraged to be familiar with the research conducted using these instruments and use this information to select assessments that meet the needs of their clients and address the referral questions that are posed.

Additional information

Abstract in Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, vol. 58, supp. 1, p. 123.

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