Back injury is a common problem in the workplace. In British Columbia alone, almost one out of five Canadians suffer from some form of work-related back problem. These back injuries mostly result from lifting heavy or irregular-sized objects.
Workers loading and unloading cargo are exposed to serious threats of heavy objects, which could potentially fall on or hit them. If this happens, the cargo itself or the immediate surroundings could also be damaged.
Manual Material Handling (MMH) equipment such as hand trucks, carts and dollies can help prevent these mishaps. Even the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) recommends these to prevent back injury. With these tools, workers can transport light or heavy loads faster, without the threat of back injuries and other accidents. While there is no hard and fast rule on when to use a utility cart or hand truck, common sense will dictate that a load too heavy or cumbersome to lift manually needs some form of MMH.
As with any equipment, you need to know how to use and maintain them properly to get the most out of them. There are safety guidelines on how to use your hand trucks and carts, especially in a factory or warehouse setting.
Here are some safety tips to help you in your material handling tasks:
- Check if your MMH equipment is in good condition. Before using your dolly or cart for transporting, you need to ensure it is in good condition. Check if the cart handles are stable and if the wheels have proper air pressure. Flat tires do not roll so well, so make sure yours aren’t deflated. Otherwise, you won’t be able to move your cargo.
- Make sure your cargo fits and is secure. Know the load capacity of your cart or truck. Trying to load your cart with small individual items or large unstable pieces isn’t just a daunting task; it can also cause the load to fall off and hurt you or make a mess. Put your small items in a container and secure your large items by bundling them up before transport. Use heavy-duty nylon belts and other cargo restraints to secure your load.
- Load the heaviest item first. Unless you want your smaller items to get crushed, the heaviest cargo should go to the bottom. A top-heavy cargo will tip over and hurt you or someone else. Make sure the load is evenly distributed on all wheels of your cart or dolly. Always follow the load capacity of your MMH and never overload.
- Decide on which direction you are going before moving your cargo. Never pull a cart, dolly, or hand truck. Always push it when moving loads. Moving forward with your cart in front of you is more stable, but your vision is compromised by the cart. Going backward means you will be in front of the truck, but it’ll be more difficult for you to control the cart, and there is a greater chance for your truck to tip over or hit something. If your view is obstructed, ask a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
- Move at an appropriate pace. Speeding, rushing, or pushing too hard can cause your cargo to shift and become unstable, causing damage to the product or hurting you or someone else in the process.
- Know when it is time to use mechanical equipment instead. Never use your back when raising or lowering a load. Use mechanical or hydraulic lifting mechanisms when you need to move extremely heavy loads.
Learning how to safely move cargo and practicing the correct methods of transporting will help prevent back and muscle injuries. You also need to prepare yourself and your surroundings before performing any lifting or moving tasks by following these simple tips on MMH general practices. Being knowledgeable on the different material handling equipment will also help you determine which tool is best for the task at hand. Doing these things will ensure you and your workers can do your jobs safely and properly.
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