Can you Handle That?


Material handling is a common daily activity, in our facilities and on our projects. Unfortunately, it is also a frequent source of workplace injuries and fatalities. Many injuries occur when workers are struck by equipment or materials, or caught between equipment and materials. Follow these safety tips to help prevent injuries: 

  • When unloading trucks, do not begin the "backing-in" process until a designated person is in place and is within sight of the driver to assist and direct. 
  • Use wheel chocks and other vehicle restraint devices to keep the equipment being unloaded from moving. 
  • Wear personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, hardhats, gloves, ear protection, etc. 
  • Ensure slings and rigging have been inspected before use. 
  • Know the weight of the heaviest object to be removed and ensure that slings and lifting device capacity are not exceeded. 
  • Cover sharp edges of materials before lifting or moving to prevent contact and possible cutting of slings/rigging. 
  • When moving or lifting boxes, pipe drums, and other heavy items, always use nonconductive tag-lines and never place your hands on suspended loads. 
  • When using material handling equipment, be aware of pinch points, moving parts or conveyors and keep clear of them. 
  • Watch where you put your feet when unloading trucks and handling pallets. 
  • Make sure the work surface is stable and free of debris. 
  • Never walk between equipment and the loading truck when they are moving. 
  • Setup a controlled access zone if necessary with barrier tape. 

Material handling equipment is always the first choice when handling and moving materials. However, before use of any equipment, it must be inspected for safe operation. Carts, bins, hand trucks, dollies, and forklifts are all mechanical aids that can help transport a load without putting undue strain on your back. Remember that Wachs Services and OSHA requires that all forklift operators must be trained and certified to operate the powered industrial truck. When planning the daily activities that require a forklift, it pays to document on the pre-shift JHA everyone who is forklift certified. 

Pushcarts and bins are useful for light, awkward loads, while hand trucks and fork-lifts can help move heavier, stackable material. Secure the load for transport, then push the load, don’t pull it. 

Personal Protective Equipment

Workers should use appropriate protective equipment as necessary to help reduce accident potential. For loads with sharp or rough edges, wear gloves or other hand and forearm protection. To avoid injuries to the eyes, wear safety glasses. When the loads are heavy or bulky, the mover should also wear steel-toed safety boots to prevent foot injuries if the worker accidentally drops a load. 

Storage of material should be planned in advance. Several factors to consider when choosing where to store offloaded/moved materials: 

  • Ensuring shelves and racks are sturdy and in good condition 
  • Stacking all materials on a flat base 
  • Placing heavier objects closer to the floor and lighter/smaller objects higher 
  • Not stacking items so high that they could block sprinklers (18” of clearance) or come in contact with overhead lights or pipes 

Lastly never store material where it will block: 

  • Access to fire extinguishers 
  • Access to electrical panels or electrical disconnects 
  • Walkways 
  • Exits and doorways 

Material handling and storage requires planning. When done properly, we reduce the risk of injuries and loss, increase efficiency/productivity, and improve housekeeping. Failure to plan not only increases the risk of injuries and loss but also could potentially violate company policies, procedures, and OSHA regulations. 

Movement and storage of materials - providing a continuous flow of raw materials and parts - is vital to Wachs Services. Managed correctly, materials movement can be done safely and efficiently. 


For more information, please see this edition of Wachs Weekly!