Reduce the Strain from Manual Material Handling

In last month’s Health & Safety Watch, we took a look at how material handling and storage strategies could lead to fatalities in the countertop fabrication industry, and this month, we are going to continue with this theme by delving into injuries from manual material handling.

It is a little-known fact that the leading cause of disabling injuries in the construction industry is overexertion. In 2016, overexertion accounted for more than one-third of workers’ compensation claims in “residential construction, heavy construction and specialty trades,” and most of these injuries are caused by improper material handling.

Lifting, lowering, holding, carrying, pushing and pulling unbalanced materials in an unsafe manner stresses the soft tissues of the body, resulting in overexertion injuries, but there are only four specific reasons why these injuries occur:

  1. Bending and twisting the back when picking up materials
  2. Holding materials away from the body or over the head for prolonged periods
  3. Repeatedly lifting, holding and moving heavy materials without taking breaks
  4. Holding materials too far from the body

To reduce overexertion injuries in the workplace, all you have to do is follow a few simple rules.

Manual Material Handling Dos

  • Decide beforehand where materials will go when they are delivered.
  • Store materials off the ground to reduce the stress associated with bending and lifting.
  • When lifting, bend the knees and push up with the legs for maximum strength and support.
  • Hold materials close to the body and within the “power zone.”
  • Lift heavy materials at one end and walk to the center to balance.
  • Whenever possible, use machines or equipment to move heavy materials.
  • Use proper supports and other equipment to hold materials overhead.
  • Use mechanical equipment to lift and lower heavy materials.
  • Take several short breaks when handling heavy materials.

Manual Material Handling Don’ts

  • Do not lift or carry more than 50 pounds without the help of other workers.
  • Do not carry materials while going up or down a ladder.
  • Do not lift or move heavy materials while standing on a ladder.
  • Do not support heavy materials on your head.
  • Do not twist the body when lifting or moving materials.