Get A Load Of This

Get A Load Of This

Although painting is one of the safest occupations in Australia, trade and DIY painters and the retailers who stock paint cans are still at risk of muscular skeletal injury if fundamental precautions are not taken. In layman’s terms, these injuries can range from a sore back to actual muscular or skeletal injury. Unsurprisingly, they usually originate from the repetitive lifting of heavy paint cans.

Last year the Australian Safety and Compensation Council published a National Standard for Manual Tasks. In their introduction to the Standard the ASCC pointed out that injuries can result from:


  • Repetitive or sustained awkward posture.
  • Sustained movement or application of force.
  • Handling unstable or unbalanced loads.
  • Handling loads which are difficult to grasp or hold.The ASCC has laid clear responsibility with management to ensure that the proper assessment of manual handling tasks is undertaken and that risk management processes are in place in order to minimise injuries. Workplace safety is, therefore, clearly a responsibility of workplace managers. The Australian Paint Manufacturers’ Federation has developed a series of pictograms that will allow managers to properly meet their obligations. Intended for use on paint cans weighing 16 Kg or more, the purpose of the pictograms is to highlight to anyone handling these products that they must assess the weight of the individual products and ensure that proper procedures are in place. This is to prevent exposure to a level of risk that would require preventative procedures to be put in place.


The pictograms shown below are designed for products weighing between 16 and 30 Kg and from 30 to 55 Kg respectively. For the latter, the recommendation is that a two person team or a mechanically-assisted lift be used. Relatively few paint cans will require such labelling in practice, since the industry tends to package its products in weights of less than 16 Kg. However, in those cases where heavier containers are unavoidable, the warning pictograms will identify the weight range and ensure that those handling the products are aware of the manual handling risk involved, meaning they can take appropriate steps and ensure proper handling of the products. As with all product stewardship areas, the message is quite clear: identify the risk; assess its likely impact; and take the necessary precautions to ensure that the risk is reduced to an acceptable level. Referring to the APMF Manual Handling Pictograms will provide the first step in this process.

Michael Hambrook is the Executive Director for the Australian Paint Manufacturers Federation. Call him on (02) 9922 3955 or email for more information.