Improving Manual Material Handling

Alternatives:  Guidelines for Equipment Use

5. Use Safer Techniques

Guidelines for Equipment Use


  • Know your load and buy equipment of appropriate capacity. Remember, lighter-weight equipment is easier to move.
  • Choose equipment appropriate for the material(s) being handled, the layout and design of your workplace, and the work tasks being performed.
  • Consider using powered equipment -rather than non-powered- when pushing and pulling forces are excessive.
  • If available, select equipment with vertical handles so workers' hands can be in their power zone.
  • Choose wheeled equipment which minimizes start forces (inertia) and reduces rolling resistance. The amount of force required to move loads with wheeled equipment depends on a number of factors including the:
    • Weight and shape of the load
    • Type and condition of the fl oor surface (e.g., smoothness, density, and other factors)
    • Route taken (e.g., slopes, obstacles, and other factors)
    • Type of wheels (i.e., the materials they are made of)
    • Size of wheels (larger wheels a minimum of 6 inches in diameter move more easily over holes, bumps, and fl oor irregularities)
    • Maintenance of wheels; it is important to clean, lubricate, and/or replace wheels on a regular basis.
  • Ground all electrically operated equipment
  • Make sure equipment alarms and warning devices are audible and working properly.
  • Inspect and maintain equipment according to manufacturers' recommendations.
  • Follow all manufacturers' recommendations for proper equipment use.

Work Environment

  • Clear the aisles and doorways for safe passage and maneuvering of equipment.
  • Set barriers that prevent employees from coming close to or beneath supported or moving loads.
  • In tight spaces, use equipment with four swivel casters or wheels. Loads are easier to turn and control.

Work Practices

  • Train employees on proper equipment use and appropriate work practices.
  • Push and pull equipment with the entire body instead of with just the arms and shoulders.
  • When pushing or pulling use both hands when feasible.
  • To move heavy loads over long distances, either reduce the load or use powered equipment.
  • Inspect pallets before loading or moving them.