Manual Material Handling Tips For The Workplace

Posted on: Dec 27, 2014 by: mike

Does your workplace promote safe manual material handling practices? Failing to address the physical needs of employees can take its toll on businesses in numerous ways. When workers are exposed to awkward conditions and/or repetitive motions, there's a greater chance of injury. And when an injury occurs on the job, the employer is responsible for paying worker's compensation.

Of course, failing to implement proper manual material handling practices can also lower a business's productivity. Even if the workers don't suffer a debilitating injury or disorder, their productivity can be negatively impacted, which subsequently affects the business's productivity. This is why it's important for business owners to familiarize themselves with the safe practices of manual material handling.

Let's first go over the basic definition of “manual material handling.” The U.S. Department of Labor defines the term “handling” as “Seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with the hands.” Of course, “manually” refers to using one's own body to perform the action rather than machine. The most basic example of manual material handling in the workplace is a worker lifting a box. Another example would be postal workers sorting mail.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are primary types or ergonomics which can be used to improve manual material handling practices: engineering improvements and administrative improvements. Engineering improvements involves rearranging and/or redesigning workstations so they are better suited to meet the needs of the worker.

Administrative improvements, on the other, focus on the observation of workers and their respective jobs to determine what types of improvements can be made. After observing/analyzing a workstation, an employer may decide to eliminate repetitious tasks, create mandatory breaks for workers, adjust workers' schedules, and move workers around so they aren't stuck in workstations that stress the same parts of the body.

See below for more ways to improve manual material handling in the workplace:

  • Gain feedback from workers to determine which workstations are problematic.
  • Encourage safe-lifting practices by guiding workers on the proper way to lift.
  • When possible, avoid unnecessary lifting/lowering of products to or from the floor.
  • Encourage teams of workers to lift heavy objects.
  • Consider placing fewer items in containers to lower their weight.
  • Containers should be packaged so the weight of its contents will remain stable and not shift during transport.
  • Talk with an ergonomics expert for more advice on how to promote safe manual material handling in the workplace.