Manual Material Handling

Date: April 1, 2021

Doug Sams, Risk Control Consultant

8 Questions to Consider to Help Minimize Injuries

Manual material handling is the lifting, pushing, pulling, and prying of items; and can often cause injury. In fact, it's one of the leading causes of injury in the construction industry. These injuries typically are soft tissue injuries to the back, neck, shoulder, and other joints. In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays were due to shoulder and back injuries.

Consider these questions to help minimize manual material handling injuries.

# 1 - How much does the item to be lifted weigh?

Before lifting an item, check the item's weight by either inspecting its packing or the bill of lading. If you are not able to find the weight listed and still are unsure, ask your supervisor.

#2 - Are the materials to be lifted heavy or awkward?

NIOSH recommends a maximum load of 51 pounds per person, which should be adjusted to account for how often workers are lifting and twisting during lifting. However, employers should identify the maximum weight for a single employee to lift. When employees come across an item over the maximum weight, they should either get help or use material handling equipment, such as forklifts, skid steers, or pallet jacks.

#3 - Can pushing or pulling forces be reduced or eliminated?

Pushing or pulling increases the risk of injury. Consider using a safer alternative, such as a two-wheel cart, to move the item instead.

#4 - Does the task require lifting, bending, repetition, or twisting?

Twisting can also end in injury. If the task involves changing direction, use your feet to turn your whole body. For long-duration tasks, consider rotating employees to minimize fatigue.

#5 - Is the material or item to be moved stable and properly-supported on dunnage?

Items that are not stable may tip and fall on an employee. Round items, such as a pipe, should be in a rack that prevents it from rolling out.

#6 - Are the crew members trained in the correct handling and lifting procedures?

Remind the crew to have a wide base, squat with the legs versus bending at the waist, and lift with the legs. The load should be kept above the waist and close to the body.

#7 - Has the crew walked the path that will be used to move the materials?

Walking the path that will be used during manual material handling can help prevent possible injuries. Confirm that the path is a clean, wide path. Check for any trip or slip hazards.

#8 - Do your employees know and follow the steps and techniques involved in proper lifting?

Did you know that you can injure your back just as easily lowering the load as you can by lifting it? To set the item down:

  • Use your legs and maintain the curve in your lower back.
  • Put the load down exactly as you picked it up.
  • Keep your back straight; object close to your body.
  • Bend your knees and make sure your hands and fingers are clear of the load.

Remember, always stop and think before bending to pick up an object and make safe lifting techniques a habit. At BITCO, our Risk Control Consultants are here to help you create safety plans and practices that help protect your workers.

To see what additional resources and safety tips BITCO Insurance Companies can provide for its insureds, please contact your Risk Control Consultant, or speak with an agent today.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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