Material Handling Equipment: An Overview


Did you know that three out of four Canadians whose job involves Manual Material Handling (MMH) have suffered pain due to back injury during their career? According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), several thousands of Canadian workers are permanently disabled by back injuries each year. These MMH-related injuries account for about one third of all lost work and even more in compensation costs.

Material handling equipment (MHE) plays a vital role in addressing hazards related to MMH. These versatile tools make it easy to move, transport, store, protect, handle, and dispose goods, materials, and products in your facility. It also simplifies the tasks of manual workers, which results to increased worker performance and productivity. Even incidents of serious MMH-connected injuries and accidents such as muscoskeletal injuries are reduced. As such, it should come as no surprise that material handling equipment is a necessity for industries such as warehousing, shipping and logistics, food industry, construction, and manufacturing .

Investing in proper standard material handling equipment makes for good business. But, as with any investment, you need to be smart about your purchases. Before buying, figure out  your needs carefully. One way to do this is by educating yourself on the different types of material handling equipment and their functions:


This covers any industrial handling equipment that moves material from point A to point B. Transportation items such as conveyor belts, carts, hand trucks, forklifts, and loaders let your workers move goods with ease and speed – whether from one end of your facility to the other, or from your docking platform to a storage area. Trucks can move material anywhere, for example, while conveyor belts move material along a single path.


Positioning tools ensure that a material to be transported is positioned appropriately for moving. This can mean turning, pivoting, or stacking the material using tools to ensure worker safety as some of these goods are dangerous, heavy or awkward to move manually. Examples of this type of MHE include lift tables, dock levelers, part feeders, hoists, and balancers.

Unit Loads

Unit loads such as pallets, bags, baskets, crates, and straps help stabilize or hold goods to avoid movement during transport or storage. This type also allows more than one item of the same material to be held by one unit load equipment.


Storage equipment lets you store or hold goods for a set period of time until the said items are needed. Bins, racks, frames, shelves and pallets are common examples of storage tools. With these, you can keep surplus goods from overproduction, allowing production to still continue. You can even customize your packaging and shelving scheme to save up on space while products are still in inventory.

Identification and Control Equipment

Large manufacturing, storage, and disposal facilities need a system to keep track of all their goods. This is where identification and control equipment come in. Bar codes, radio frequency tags, magnetic strips, portable data terminals, and machine vision are just some examples of this type of MHE that collects information and coordinates flows inside your facility.

Every piece of material handling equipment is designed to meet the varying needs of your facility but you must also know its limitations. To get the most out of your MHE, you need to comply with the regulations in the Canada Labour Code. Lastly, always follow the safety instructions mentioned by the manufacturer.  It’s always better to be safe and sure!


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  1. Job safety is important for all companies. I think making companies safer for people in the long run, will get all companies to be more productive in every field.

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