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Manual labour

Heavy labour and work in awkward positions

What to consider if your work involves heavy manual labour or work in awkward positions.

Person carrying a big box, resting the box halfway on his thigh.

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Heavy manual labour

Advice while doing heavy labour:

  • Position yourself close to the item your working on/ with.
  • Interchange between using right and left hand. 
  • Try to have a symmetrical strain on your body while doing heavy labour.
  • Rotate between doing heavy and less heavy tasks regulary. Take frequent breaks.
  • Plan the execution of tasks so it's less strenuous on the body. (I.e. combine heavy tasks with less heavy tasks and make sure to have necessary aides available.) 
  • Bend your legs instedad of your back while lifting/ putting down heavy objects.
  • Avoid twisting your back during heavy lifting - take a few more steps if necessary.
  • If necessary, work in pairs (or more) while carrying.
  • Assisst if someone asks for a helping hand.
  • Pushing, pulling and rolling (equipment with wheels) is (generally speaking) easier than carrying. 
  • Pushing, pulling and rolling is easier on an even surface. Even out the ground if needed. This can i.e. be done by adding planks as a "quick fix" on very uneven surfaces.


  • Gloves (for better gripping).
  • Moving straps
  • Stair climbing dolly
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hand truck
  • Trolley
  • Pulley
  • Winch
  • Wheel dolly
  • Transport tray
  • Suspension

Read more at Arbeidstilsynet's web pages (note: only the Norwegian pages have information on ergonomics): https://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/tema/ergonomi/manuelt-arbeid/tungt-arbeid/

Work in awkward positions

Advice while working in awkward positions:

  • Time spent working either squatting, on knees or above shoulder height shouldn't exceed more than half an hour at a time, before switching to a less strenious task or taking a break.
  • Time spent in awkward positions shouldn't exceed more than four hours a day.
  • When it's not possible to facilitate working conditions to avoid awkward positions, it's important to concider variation, work rotation and taking breaks.
  • Concider whether it's possible to switch side according to what you're working on/ with, to get variation on how the body is bing used. I.e. interchange between using right and left hand, or make sure your neck is being equally rotated towards left and right by sometimes swithcing position.


  • Knee padding
  • Elbow padding
  • Seat padding
  • Stool
  • Step stool
  • Ladder
  • Suspension of heavy equipment

Read more at Arbeidstilsynet's web pages (note: only the Norwegian pages have information on ergonomics): https://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/tema/ergonomi/manuelt-arbeid/uheldige-arbeidsstillinger/