With musculoskeletal injuries still accounting for a large majority of workplace injury claims, it is important to provide solutions for workers that will, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate and/or mitigate the potential for this type of injury to the worker.

Be safety smart – Kombi modular stairs and platforms save your time and your back

The design of the KOMBI modular access stair and platform system has provided a practical solution to reducing not only the reliance on large plant/equipment for installation but most importantly, the modular design means the item is broken down into smaller (less weight and size) components. This reduces the potential for manual handling injuries relating to object weight, and provides neat lengths and shapes that are easier to handle (less awkward).

The following is a summary of how the installation of KOMBI access stair and platform systems has the potential to reduce manual handling hazards. It simply requires the workers to have a fundamental understanding of manual handling to create a successful safety outcome. The assessment specifically focuses on reducing weight, the components not being awkward, so they can be easily lifted and shifted by two people and/or the individual.

The below information was prepared following best practice guidance for risk mitigation as summarised in the WA Commerce Code of Practice for Manual Tasks 2010 and the Safework Australia – National Code of Practice for Manual Handling.

Key risk factors considered:

1. Posture (awkward or sustained positions)

2. Repetition

3. Forces and loads (weight, balance and type of object)

4. Work environment

5. System of work

An indicative scenario for installing KOMBI modular aluminium access stair and platform systems

The following weights have been factored into our calculations:

  • Walkway panels 1.6m - 35kg / 17.5kg per worker
  • Handrail extrusion 1.6m - 1.5kg
  • Kneerail extrusion 1.6m - 1.0kg
  • Posts - 1.5kg

We estimate that a team of two installers could install four 1.6m platform and handrail configurations per hour, with the only significant load being the weight of the walkway panels. All other components are less than 2kg and, therefore, easily lifted by one person.

The assessment is assuming:

1. the ground conditions are favourable and free of obstructions;

2. each configuration consists of 1 walkway panel, 2 handrail extrusions, 2 knee rail extrusions, 4 posts;

3. the load for the walkway panel is shared evenly when lifting i.e., each person has about 17.5kg of the load to manage;

4. lifting of the remaining components to build the configuration are shared evenly between each person;

5. there will be 6 solid production hours worked within an 8-hour working day;

6. the lift and shift of the panel into place will take 2-3 minutes per panel.

Risk Assessment
Risk Factor Level of Control Explanation
Posture Mitigated - level of risk still exists The design of our system places the panel at an above-waist height level, which is an optimum height to lift and shift loads. There is still a risk based on whether the waist height level could be maintained on the equipment used to transport and store panels to get them to the installation point.
Repetition Well controlled The work task timing would require the lift and shift of an item once every 15 minutes approximately. An indicated number of 24-32 lift and shifts of the panel would be completed in one working day. Not considered a high repetition activity as there is a more than adequate break between each lift/shift activity.
Force and Loads Well controlled The parameters set for this project were to minimise the load weight to 20kg per person per lift. Each panel weighs 35kg, meaning each person participating in the lift/shift would be lifting a weight below the specified 20kg. The task requires a small lift and hold of the object and with competent work environment design to reduce the distance of moving the load, the forces experience by each person would be minimal.
Work Environment Mitigated - level of risk still exists The risks relating to the manual handling part of this task are well controlled. There is still an unknown regarding the immediate risks when in the work environment.
System of Work Well controlled The weight of the product permits it to be completed by people and not plant. The omission of plant eliminates several concerns that are relating to work in a restricted space, lifting/rigging objects and the cost of hire and use of mechanical plant.


Understanding Manual Handling Limits

The diagram below gives guidance as to what are recommended weights and it is widely recommended (and accepted) that the heavier the weight, the shorter must be the traverse distance. These become relevant when assessing the movement of the walkway panels and other KOMBI components.

These figures were used to propose an optimal system of work, i.e., loads at waist height within 30cm of the body and moved in best case scenario less than 4m and at most 6m, a distance that can be tolerated for the weight and dimensions of the KOMBI components.

Maximum Handling Load Guidelines

Maximum Handling Load Guidelines

Understanding Load Lift Capacity

Using the guideline detailed by Work Environment Denmark (4. Assessment of the total weight), a person can lift a total weight as follows:

  • Approximately 10,000kg per day for lifting close to the body
  • Approximately 6,000kg per day for lifting at underarm distance
  • Approximately 3,000kg per day for lifting at 3/4 of an arm’s distance

The calculation for this task is only based on the lifting and shifting of the panels and other KOMBI components. It is conceded that there may be other various lift and shift tasks undertaken to complete this task. Based on our experience on installing KOMBI access stair and platform systems, these additional manual handling tasks will have a minimal impact.

The Calculation Scenario

Four (4) lifts each of 17.5kg (1 x walkway panel), 1.5kg (1 x handrail), 1.0kg (1 x kneerail) and 3.0kg (2 x posts) giving a total of 23kg, carried out over an 8-hour workday at a distance that will be either or between close to the body or at worst, at 3/4 arm’s length.

4 x 23kg = 92kg

92kg x 8 hours = 736kg lifted per day

These calculations show that the installation of KOMBI access stair and platforms systems falls well under the threshold of 3,000kg per day if lifting at 3/4 arm’s length. This is based strictly on the lift component. Other risk factors have been addressed in the ‘Risk Assessment’ table above.

No Hot Works

The modular design of KOMBI stair and platform systems requires no on-site welding. This removes another suite of hazards (of which one is manual handling during welding) normally faced when completing similar type works with steel. This is a big advantage for installation into restricted spaces where ventilation is also a concern.

Hard To Reach Places

Imagine having the type of system that allows you to get to any awkward nook and cranny in established infrastructure and buildings? KOMBI is the answer. Traditionally done with steel, creating awkward and highly hazardous manual handling tasks, KOMBI stairs and platforms were used recently in the commercial lift industry within lift maintenance platforms.


The installation of KOMBI aluminium access stair and platform systems can be confidently carried out without any requirement for mechanical lifting aids such as would be necessary if using a similar steel product.

With an equivalent type system in steel weighing approx. 2.5 times more than KOMBI, the advantages of using a lightweight modular access system such as KOMBI ensures that cost-effective installations can be performed easily while minimising risk of worker injury.

By Rob B. Lowe

Rob has more than 15 years of senior level experience in workplace health and safety across mining, oil and gas, power generation, hospitality and recreation, and for the last eight years, with a focus on manufacturing. Rob worked closely with the Australian Institute of Health & Safety to develop and lead their professional mentoring program for workplace health and safety professionals.


1. WA Commerce Code of Practice Manual Tasks 2010 (specific reference to Appendix 4: Guidance material for rating risk factors)

2. QLD WHS Publication Manual Tasks Lifting and Carry Loads (specific reference to change loads when a load is moved away from the body)

3. Publication from Work Environment in Denmark (specific reference to the load over working day calculation)

4. Safe Work Australia – National Code of Practice for Manual Handling (general guidance)