Top Material Handling Safety Principles

Safe material handling applies to all industries, including industrial plants. While unique safety rules apply in specific settings, anyone working in material handling should be aware of the general guidelines. Here are some of the top safety principles that apply to industrial plants and material handling in general.

Manual material moving safety

Handling materials involves moving items from place to place throughout a facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides numerous tips to reduce hazards that cover everything from manual handling to powered equipment. Safe practices include understanding ergonomics and using the protective equipment for the job.

According to data from OSHA, back injuries account for approximately two in every 10 reported work illnesses. The majority of these injuries can be prevented with a couple of simple guidelines.

Workers should first understand that if materials are too heavy or bulky to move alone, they need to get help. Assistance can come from another individual or the proper equipment. Struggling to move materials without help will take more time and will often lead to an injury.

The correct lifting techniques must be included in any employee training. This is also a safety principle that often requires repeated education. Bending at the knees and not twisting while lifting are two key factors in preventing back injuries. While back braces may assist some employees, these devices are not really designed to prevent injury. Braces reduce strain and movement — they do not stop it.

Material handling with equipment

The forklift compliance kit contains all of our forklift training materials. That's everything you need to successfully train your forklift operators on General Industry or Construction, in English or Spanish! These four-video sets or DVDs cover each OSHA regulation, including training, operation, loading, pre-operation inspection, and refueling/recharging of forklifts. Step-by-step training instructions in addition to real-world examples, practice drills, and review questions ensure that your employees will receive the comprehensive training they need. Further guidance in the Trainer's Instruction Manual, including references to OSHA regulations, ensures that your trainer is well-prepared. Training completion certificates and operator wallet cards are also included with this program.

The forklift compliance kit contains all of our forklift training materials. That’s everything you need to successfully train your forklift operators on General Industry or Construction, in English or Spanish! These four-video sets or DVDs cover each OSHA regulation, including training, operation, loading, pre-operation inspection, and refueling/recharging of forklifts. Step-by-step training instructions in addition to real-world examples, practice drills, and review questions ensure that your employees will receive the comprehensive training they need. Further guidance in the Trainer’s Instruction Manual, including references to OSHA regulations, ensures that your trainer is well-prepared. Training completion certificates and operator wallet cards are also included with this program.

You have heard this many times, but it cannot be reinforced enough. Powered equipment, including forklifts, should only be operated by trained, certified personnel. Even mechanical pallet jacks create safety issues when not handled appropriately.

Operators must know how to control the equipment they are operating. Understanding appropriate speeds and cornering techniques makes a big difference. Mirrors should be installed on any blind corners or areas that block a clear view. Loads being moved must be stacked correctly to prevent both the material and the forklift from tipping over.

Forklifts should not be in motion with the forks raised. When loading and unloading at docks, a second employee should be available to guide the operator as needed. Equipment operators should be experienced in backing up, because a run-over can be deadly. Finally, all employees in your facility need to be trained regarding powered equipment used in your facility. Workers must be trained to stay out of moving equipment areas; the operator may not be able to see them.

All material handling

No matter what type of material handling your employees perform, the right personal protective equipment (PPE) and attention to details are principles of safe work procedures that are often forgotten.

Sneakers have no place in an industrial work environment, yet warehouse employees are often found wearing this type of shoe. While steel-toed boots may not be required, strong footwear must be. Materials often fall during movement or from shelves if the items are not stacked correctly. While the weight may not be enough to break bones, bruises are painful and can cause a loss of production time.

Protective gloves should be worn in many different situations. The need for gloves should be obvious when dealing with caustic chemicals that could spill. There are many other situations where the use of quality gloves will prevent or reduce injuries.

When workers are dealing with pallets, gloves should be worn to eliminate splinters from rough wood. Splinters are not always minor — shards of wood can break off and embed in the worker’s hand. Cut-resistant gloves should also be worn anytime a worker is dealing with sharp edges or tools such as box cutters. A simple slip can result in a major injury.

See all the Easy-to-Use OSHA Safety Training Materials available!

See all the Easy-to-Use OSHA Safety Training Materials available!

Lift tables and other equipment can greatly reduce injury by raising pallets to the best height for loading and unloading. This type of material handling equipment can increase productivity. Workers involved in shipping and receiving need stations that reduce repetitive injuries from constant lifting or bending. A table at the correct height will reduce this type of strain injury.

Properly stacking materials on shelving is another requirement in safety. Falling items are not your only concern — overloaded shelving may collapse, creating an avalanche effect on everything below. Shelving must be securely bolted to the floor or wall to prevent the shelves from tipping of falling from weight or accidental contact.

These safety principles are not difficult to incorporate into your facility. The key is in training workers about the importance of safety and following up to ensure everyone is sticking to safe procedures.

Author Bio:

Jerry Matos is the Product Specialist at Cherry’s Industrial Equipment. Cherry’s Industrial Equipment is the premier provider of material handling equipment to the industrial warehouse industry.

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