Ergonomics Material Handling

Material Handling includes lifting, transporting and depositing material by human means using a variety of hand or hand-operated accessories such as hooks, bars, jacks, hand trucks, dollies, wheel barrows or other mechanical means. Manual material handling entails lifting, but also usually includes climbing, pushing, pulling and pivoting, all of which pose the risk of injury to the back. Recent studies show that nearly 70% of low back injuries are related to manual material handling. Manual material handling involves lifting, lowering, and carrying objects. If ergonomics principles are ignored, stresses on the muscles, joints, and disks in the back can eventually lead to injury. For objects that are too heavy or bulky for safe manual handling by employees, mechanical lifting devices must be used for lifting and moving.

Work Station Design

Reduce the distance over which the load has to be moved by relocating production and storage areas.

Design Work Stations So that Workers:

  • can store and handle all material between knuckle and shoulder height; waist height is most desirable
  • can begin and end handling material at the same height.
  • can face the load and handle materials as close to the body as possible.
  • do not have to handle loads using awkward postures or an extended reach, and
  • do not handle loads in confined spaces that prevent them from using good body mechanics

Facilitate Access to Material by:

• Providing workbenches and other work stations with toe cut-outs, so that workers can get closer to the load.
• Supplying bins and totes with removable sides
• removing obstructions, such as unnecessary railings on bins

Lifting and Lowering

Eliminate the need to lift or lower manually by providing and ensuring proper use of:

  • lift trucks, cranes, hoists, scissor lifts, drum and barrel dumpers, stackers, work dispensers, elevating conveyors, articulating arms and other mechanical devices
  • Gravity dumps and chutes
  • Power lift tail gates on trucks, and hand trucks to ensure easy transfer of material from the truck to ground level
  • Portable ramps or conveyors to lift and lower loads on to work stations

Precautions to be Taken When Moving Materials Manually

When moving materials manually, workers should attach handles or holders to loads. In addition, workers should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment and use proper lifting techniques. To prevent injury from oversize loads, workers should seek help in the following:

  • when a load is so bulky that employees cannot properly grasp or lift it,
  • When employees cannot see around or over a load, or
  • when employees cannot safely handle a load.
  • Using the following personal protective equipment prevents needless injuries when manually moving materials:
  • Hand and forearm protection, such as gloves, for loads with sharp or rough edges.
  • Eye protection.
  • Steel-toed safety shoes or boots.
  • Metal, fiber, or plastic metatarsal guards to protect the instep area from impact or compression.

Precautions to be Taken When Moving Materials Mechanically

Using mechanical equipment to move and store materials increases the potential for employee injuries. Workers must be aware of both manual handling safety concerns and safe equipment operating techniques. Employees should avoid overloading equipment when moving materials mechanically by letting the weight, size, and shape of the material being moved dictate the type of equipment used. All materials handling equipment has rated capacities that determine the maximum weight the equipment can safely handle and the conditions under which it can handle that weight. Employers must ensure that the equipment-rated capacity is displayed on each piece of equipment and is not exceeded except for load testing.

Although workers may be knowledgeable about powered equipment, they should take precautions when stacking and storing material. When picking up items with a powered industrial truck, workers must do the following:

  • Center the load on the forks as close to the mast as possible to minimize the potential for the truck tipping or the load falling,
  • Avoid overloading a lift truck because it impairs control and causes tipping over,
  • do not place extra weight on the rear of a counterbalanced forklift to allow an overload,
  • Adjust the load to the lowest position when traveling,
  • Follow the truck manufacturer’s operational requirements, and
  • Pile and cross-tier all stacked loads correctly when possible.

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