Manual Handling Training Case Study: Boral Timber Division

Boral is Australia’s largest building and construction materials supplier with operations in all states and territories. In Australia, the company is structured into two main operating divisions: Boral Construction Materials & Cement – supplying concrete, quarry products, asphalt, cement, bricks, and Boral Building Products – supplying plasterboard, roof tiles, timber, windows and masonry.


Konekt and Boral have been working together for over seven years, and recently have worked to develop a positive manual handling culture within Boral Timber. Since initially developing a targeted program to address safety culture and foster safe manual handling procedures, Konekt and Boral have seen the program become a part of the culture and assist with increasing employee awareness and cementing the core principles of safe working practices.

Boral Timber reported a reduction of more than 80% in manual handling injury claims. Employee understanding and recall of manual handling principles post-program increased

Following a review of internal incidents and injuries, Boral Timber identified a need to improve manual handling behaviours within their workplace to reduce the frequency and severity of lost time injuries.

Best practice approach

Injuries caused by manual handling are a major burden to society. Manual handling training programs have been designed to reduce the likelihood of injury among the workforce; however, research shows that concerns have been raised over the efficacy of manual handling training methods.

A systematic review by Clemes, Haslam and Haslam (2010) concluded that there was considerable evidence supporting the idea that the principles learnt during training are not applied in the working environment and that high priority should be given to developing and evaluating multidimensional interventions, which are tailored to the industrial sector. The program Konekt and Boral Timber worked in partnership to develop a bespoke and innovative manual handling program founded on employee engagement and cultural change through a ground floor up approach. The manual handling program involved the following key features:

The program

  • A manual handling training project that incorporates high levels of employee contact over a sustained and extended period of time (12 months).
  • Training that is provided, reviewed and reinforced in a workplace-based setting, focused heavily on the physical requirements of high risk tasks being aligned with sound functional and postural principles.
  • Integration of Boral’s Work Health and Safety resources into the program to ensure that the training was tailored to Boral’s work environment and safety practices.
  • Co-branded materials, which were developed with input from Boral employees, for display within all locations, including stretching / safe manual handling practice posters and stretching DVDs.
  • A Konekt Project Manager allocated to maintain oversight of program implementation over all Boral Timber locations, including ensuring consistency in the approach undertaken and monitoring of trends / issues.
  • With local ownership identified as fundamental to ongoing safety improvement, Boral Site Champions were selected at each Boral Timber location. With support from Konekt, the role of the Site Champion was to drive the program internally, monitor compliance with trained principles and consistently bring the importance of safe manual handling to front of mind.
  • In addition to combined theory and practical manual handling training being delivered to all employees, Site Champions were provided in-depth education on the implications and impact of manual handling injuries, manual handling risk assessments, evaluation of employee manual handling competency and coaching of staff on correct technique.
  • Site Champions were provided with resources to enable quick and effective evaluation of employee manual handling technique against the four key principles of manual handling.
  • Regular review and engagement between Konekt, each Site Champion, Managers and Boral HSE Advisors to review incident / injury rates, common issues / trends, evaluate behavioural change and establish focus areas for improvement.
  • Location specific strategy plans, which were developed with key parties to improve the safety culture and program outcomes. Components of these plans included: Toolbox Talks, schedules for employee competency reviews to be completed and delivery of refresher manual handling training, as required.
  • Manual handling theory was assessed three months post-training to review concept retention.
  • Each employee’s manual handling technique competency was audited by their Site Champion on a monthly basis. These audits were allocated a score to enable analysis between locations.
  • Feedback was obtained directly from Boral employees regarding their perception of the program.
  • Teleconferences were held with Boral Representatives (Site Champions and / or HSE Advisors) on a monthly and quarterly basis to obtain anecdotal feedback and allow an opportunity to discuss common trends between sites.
  • Monitoring of incident / injury rates. Additionally, post-incident reviews were undertaken by Konekt.


Over a 12 month period following program implementation, Boral Timber reported a reduction of more than 80% in manual handling injury claims. Employee understanding and recall of manual handling principles post-program increased 20%. In addition to these objective findings, by having allocated Site Champions within each location, there has been an increase in the level of employee accountability in relation to safe manual handling practices.

Since implementation within Boral Timber, the program has expanded into other sites, increasing the awareness and profile of Boral’s internal manual handling procedures. The idea of empowering employees to become Site Champions has recently been adopted for an ergonomics project.

References Clemes, S.A., Haslam, C.O. & Haslam, R.A. (2010). What constitutes effective manual handling training? A systematic review. Occupational Medicine 2010;60:101–107

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