A Guest Post by Megan Ray Nichols
Material handling may not seem like a big deal, but it can be risky if not done properly. If you’re not careful, you could put unnecessary strain on your muscles and bones, causing any number of health problems. But sometimes it’s tempting to be a little sloppy.
If there’s an outgoing shipment or it’s the end of the day, you may want to speed things up. In trying to finish sooner, you could ignore safety guidelines and end up hurting yourself. But no amount of efficiency is worth putting yourself in harm’s way.
You should be efficient, but not at the risk of injury. Focus on safe conduct and you’ll naturally get faster the longer you work. To help you with that goal, here are five quick tips for handling materials safely.
1. Practice Good Posture
The easiest way to stay safe while lifting and moving materials is to practice good posture. Bending over is the leading cause of back injuries in workers. Poor lifting techniques can cause severe damage, but they’re easy to avoid.
No matter how tempting it may be, never bend to pick something up. Even improperly picking up smaller items can be harmful if you do it enough. To avoid unnecessary back pains, crouch down and lift things with your legs instead of using your back.
Other things to keep in mind include carrying items close to your body and not twisting to move materials. Make sure you have enough space to crouch and turn, too.
2. Use Lifting/Carrying Equipment
There’s an abundance of machines out there that can carry things for you. Some loads are too large or too heavy to lift on your own, so you can use equipment to help you out. If you’re a manager or safety officer, consider talking to someone about buying these tools if you don’t already have them.
Forklifts are ideal for larger loads or moving multiple objects at once. You can use lift magnets to move metal materials like bundles of tubing or steel coils. If you have to carry several items over a longer distance, consider using a conveyor belt system.
In today’s world, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to equipment. It’s easier and more affordable than ever to acquire the tools to help you or your employees handle materials quickly and safely.
3. Gear Up
Large machinery isn’t the only kind of equipment you should consider. Sometimes you have to handle things manually. When you do, you’ll want some safety gear. No matter how experienced or confident you are, you should be wearing personal safety equipment.
At the very least, you should always wear eye protection and a helmet. Your head and eyes are vital but often vulnerable, so you want to ensure you protect them should something happen. Gloves and long sleeves are also a good idea so that you avoid cuts and splinters.
If you do a lot of lifting from the ground, you might want to wear a lumbar support belt. These belts will help you maintain a healthy lifting posture and protect your back. Steel-toed shoes are a good investment, too. They keep your feet safe if something falls on them.
4. Don’t Lift Alone
Some items don’t require a forklift but are a little too heavy for you alone. Maybe you can lift it, but it’s uncomfortable or strenuous. For these situations, ask a coworker to help you out.
You should never lift more than 50 pounds on your own. Carrying things with two or more people doesn’t eliminate all risks, so make sure you still practice safe techniques. You and your coworker should raise items together, take steps together and lower at the same time to avoid straining yourselves.
Getting help from a buddy doesn’t just apply to objects that are exceptionally heavy or awkward. If you can lift something comfortably but can’t see over or around it, ask someone to guide you so you don’t run into anything.
5. Take It Slow
If you’re going too fast, you’re going to get hurt. Ensuring you lift and carry things with the proper techniques is always worth the extra time it may take. Being quick won’t do you any good if it causes you to make a mistake or hurts you or damages materials.
Even if you have good posture, hoisting heavy objects too quickly can lead to injury. Avoid any sudden, jerky movements. Sometimes you’ll feel pressured to get things done as soon as possible, but you should never prefer speed over safety.
With proper techniques and equipment, material handling can be a perfectly safe job. If you follow these tips and make sure others do as well, there’s nothing to worry about when lifting or carrying anything.