Toolbox Talk - Material Handling

Toolbox Talk - Material Handling

Material handling is the largest single cause of lost workday injuries in construction. One out of every four work injuries happens because someone lifted, carried, pushed, or pulled something the wrong way or lifted beyond his or her capacity. Workers suffer many painful injuries because they forget or are not properly trained in the basics of manual material handling.

Here are a few pointers about lifting and safe handling of materials:

1. Use required personal protective equipment

  • Think of your toes in case something heavy drops. Always wear safety toed shoes when lifting or handling heavy objects.
  • Think of your hands. Wear good strong gloves with good grip when you handle anything rough, sharp or splintery.
2. Before you lift:

  • Determine if the item(s) could be moved by mechanical means. Use mechanical means whenever practical to avoid injury.
  • Test the load to determine its weight. Use tandem (multi-person) lifting or mechanical devices if the load is heavy or awkward.
  • Be sure you have a secure grip. Do not have anything in your hands when lifting other than the object you are lifting. Use lifting handles or handholds if provided.
  • Be sure you have solid footing.
  • Inspect the path you are going to follow while carrying the load. Make sure it is free of debris and obstacles.
  • Check packaging to ensure it is secure and the load will not fall out while being handled.
3. When you lift and carry:

  • Keep the load close to your body to minimize the strain.
  • If the object is over your head, get a ladder or lift to get to it more easily.
  • Do not reach to get an object while lifting. Slide the object closer or walk around to get closer to the item.
  • Crouch down with the load between your legs and get a good grip on the object.
  • Lift smoothly and slowly with your legs. Keep your back vertical.
  • Keep your body facing the load throughout the lift and while moving the load. Don't twist your body; pivot with your feet instead of your spine.
  • Carry the load close to your body in the space between your shoulders and waist.
  • Do not block your view with the load.
  • Resist the temptation to carry that one extra box to avoid another trip.
4. Use equipment (dollies, carts, hoists, or forklifts) to move loads whenever possible

  • Push rather than pull if using a manual device to move the load.
  • Push or pull at waist height and try to avoid bending.
  • Play it safe and smart. Follow these pointers in all of your lifting and handling of materials.

Total time lost to work-related injuries in 2013 was 60 million days, and another 35 million days of productive time were lost in that year because of permanently disabling injuries that had occurred in prior years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Manual material handling can lead to fatigue and to injury, especially when a worker performs the tasks repeatedly or for long periods of time. NIOSH and other authorities report the main risk factors leading to injuries in manual material handling tasks include awkward postures, repetitive motions, forceful exertions, and static postures.