Skip navigation
We Are Union VTHC
We Are Union Journal
News from the working class
What do you mean, 'Closing the Loopholes'?

ASK RENATA: As a courier franchisee, am I protected from heavy lifts?

‘As a courier franchisee (sold as ‘business owner’) am I required to lift over 20kg (or items that are marked ‘team lift’)? We’re not contractors, we’re not employees, and we are paid $1.90 per item we deliver whether it is a 10g satchel or a 25+kg box (including flat pack furniture). There are no lifting aids and many items do not fit on hand trolleys. This is domestic freight most often, as opposed to commercial.'

What you’re describing sounds dangerous. Based on what you’ve told us, it seems inevitable that sooner or later either you, or one of your workmates, will incur an injury.

The first thing we’d like to say is - musculoskeletal injuries can be life-altering, requiring ongoing pain management for injuries that never fully heal, restricting our capacity to work and negatively impacting our personal lives and relationships with family and friends.

In short, no-one wants a back injury.

The issue of whether you’re classified as a sole trader or employee is tricky, and essentially an industrial one, with the wording in your contract of engagement being crucial.  We’d therefore strongly advise speaking with your Union for assistance - their officers should be able to assist in determining whether ‘business owner‘ is your correct classification.

If you are considered an employee, then under section 21 of the OHS Act the duty to provide a safe workplace falls to your employer.

If you are self-employed then under section 24 of our OHS Act you are your own employer and responsible for your own health and safety.

Either way, regarding the actual question of lifting, the Hazardous Manual Handling regulations require an employer ‘identify any hazardous manual handling undertaken’ (r26) then ‘control the risk’ (r27) by:

1)            eliminating the risk, or,

2)            if that’s not practicable, reducing it by

  1. a) altering the workplace, environment, or system of work
  2. b) changing the things used in the hazardous manual handling task
  3. c) using mechanical aids
  4. d) or any combination of the above

3)            if a risk remains, having implemented all the above, the employer may reduce the risk using information, instruction, or training

4)            The employer may ONLY rely solely or primarily on information, training or supervision IF none of the above are reasonably practicable

When determining any control measures, the employer must take into account the following:

  • postures
  • movements
  • forces
  • the duration and frequency of the hazardous manual handling; and
  • environmental conditions, including heat, cold and vibration, that act directly on the person carrying out the hazardous manual handling

You may find our Hazardous Manual Handling webpage a helpful, and perhaps our Right to Refuse Unsafe Work webpage.

See also:

Have a question about OHS? Ask Renata!

"Ask Renata" is our OHS advice column. Human OHS encyclopedia Martin Raspin will answer your queries!