October 23, 2003
Handling material is a daily function in the workplace. All too often it is a task taken for granted, with little knowledge of or attention to the consequences if done incorrectly. Management and employees need to look at and evaluate how material goods are handled inside and outside their facilities. Whether the operation involves delivering or receiving material, an area should be designated for that purpose.
How the material or goods are unloaded or loaded is a key factor in reducing employee injuries. Persons involved in material handling should be able to lift and hold the weight of the material or goods used in their operations. They also must be properly trained in the correct way to lift and carry the items. The National Safety Council offers tips on the following:
Size up the Load
Lift It Right
Back Safety Tips
It is important to educate the personnel involved in material handling. They must understand that it is not smart or a good practice to show offtheir muscles by lifting and carrying very heavy material. Doing so is a common cause of back injuries, and back injuries can remain with someone for the rest of his or her life.
Management must designate and train specific individuals to unload and load material. Management also must make sure that the correct procedures are followed. Employees should be aware that regardless of how small or lightweight an item is, only a designated, trained individual should move it.
Many times it is not necessary for an individual to lift and carry material manually. Various types of equipment—dolly, cart, lift truck, hoist, and crane—are available to move material safely. Depending on the type of operation, using a dolly and cart to move material can result in minimal disruption of work flow.
Lift trucks can be used to carry heavier loads from one area to another. It is imperative that materials are placed on the lift truck in a safe and secure manner to avoid having the load shift, fall off, roll over, or impair the driver's vision.
Hoists and cranes should be used to lift extremely heavy loads. When using this type of equipment, personnel must enforce proper safety measures to prevent serious injuries. Only experienced persons should operate hoists and cranes.The machinery must be kept in good working condition, properly maintained, and tested on a regular basis. Loads should not exceed the machine's load limit.
These are only a few ideas to consider when addressing the issue of material handling safety. Common sense is the most practical tool to use.