11 Material Handling Tips for Minimizing Injury Risk
Lower Workers' Comp Claims for Facilities
Material handling is a large part of any business – especially those in the manufacturing or recycling industries. Whether this is performed manually, or with equipment, it’s something that can easily cause injury. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), material handling accounts for 20-45 percent of all occupational injuries.
There are five basic tasks that manual material handling almost always consists of:
These tasks contribute to workers overextending themselves, handling too much weight and becoming excessively fatigued. Mechanical handling eliminates a number of the above items, but still carries risk. Injuries may occur from exposure to moving equipment parts, nip points, falling loads and collisions with equipment. What can be done on the front line to help decrease this amount? Supervisors can teach and enforce proper techniques that look to do two things: maximize production efficiency and minimize risk.
A well designed job will be both efficient and safe. By reviewing the following items in the department and using those insights to redesign tasks, reduction of risk should be achievable with any form of material handling. Here are our tips for doing so:
- Eliminate the task. Instead of manually lifting, safely use equipment where possible. Pushing, pulling and carrying can all be avoided by using conveyors, lift trucks, slides or hand trucks.
- Reduce the weight or the force needed to move the load. Pushing and pulling can be simplified by reducing the load.
- Reduce the distance from the hands to the body. Keep the load small and provide grips or handles to carry.
- Reduce the distance the load has to move. Study the layout of your department to reduce distances between individual workstations and storage.
- Keep material in the area between shoulder and knuckle height. This is the most effective range for lifting and lowering.
Some additional items to consider when evaluating a task can be:
- Bending. Eliminate possible and keep the materials at work level.
- Twisting. Eliminate the possibility to perform this task by keeping materials in front of the employee. Provide sufficient work space for the whole body to turn.
- Reaching out. Eliminate reaches over 16 inches, keep the load close to the body and reduce the size of objects that are handled manually.
- Lifting and lowering. Eliminate the need to perform this manually. Either reduce the weight or increase the weight so it can be performed mechanically.
- Push/pull. Lessen the force needed to push or pull. Recue the distance of the push/pull and provide handles/grips.
- Carrying. Reduce the weight load, shorten the distance and ensure the load is carried with the arms straight down.
It’s important that workers be specifically instructed of the type of manual handling they’ll be doing. This includes directions for bulky or odd-shaped objects and best practices others have used in the past to safely handle. All of these should make a positive impact to your losses by either minimizing them or eliminating them when converting to mechanical lifting.
For additional insight on the costly risk of workplace injuries, check out our Workers’ Compensation Videos page and get educated.
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