Safe Moving For Manual Material Handlers

posted on: Monday September 24, 2012

Manual material handling is not for everyone. It takes organization, focus, and a very strong work ethic. Manual material handling (MMH) is repetitive and laborious. It is also dangerous; MMH is consistently included amongst the most likely jobs to result in illness or injury. In other words, finding the right person for the job is only part of what will factor into employee longevity. He or she needs to be educated about and protected from a number of job related hazards.

Increasing safety through education, ergonomics, and other redesign has been a priority in nearly all industries for years. As repetitive stress injuries became not only more common but also more debilitating, employers took a closer look at their operations. With the help of organizations like OSHA, plants across the world have changed equipment, layouts, and job responsibilities to successfully reduce the number of work-related injuries and workman’s compensation claims.

A rather current initiative that some companies are taking is to remove the need for forklifts. While the forklift allows equipment and supplies to be carried across a distance without exposing an employee to heavy lifting, forklifts have proven to be unsafe and costly. Forklift-free plans have been a challenge to implement. Transporting materials in a timely manner and in a way that doesn’t subject the employees to physical hardship takes creativity. Loading materials onto a large cart eliminates carrying heavy loads, but it forces people to repeatedly push and pull. Pushing and pulling are described by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as 2 of the 5 main repetitive movements that lead to long-term injury. Motorized carts have been created to resolve this, but the batteries on some aren’t powerful enough to last an entire day without recharging. They can also be difficult to maneuver, especially in and out of storage and work areas. Those that are built to move aren’t always built to last. These carts are expensive. The health of employees and the success of a business are certainly worth an investment in equipment, but the equipment needs to be durable.

There are a number of ways to increase employee safety, but one must be very careful when replacing one method of pallet/equipment transport with another. Years ago, when OSHA recognized that heavy lifting compromised a person’s safety, the solution was to place the heavy objects on a cart or dolly that the employee could push and pull around. This seemed safer until injuries resulting from long-term pushing and pulling started to surface. Material absolutely must be moved around a plant or warehouse. When replacing a forklift, it is therefore important to anticipate any problems that the solution may actually cause. When it comes to moving product, motorized carts are a step in the right direction, but may not be the answer. Rather than investing in motorized carts, purchasing a motorized cart mover may be the safest way to get material from point A to point B.

With a cart mover, if built to last and to hold a charge all day, one mover can push or pull many wheeled carts or platforms. With enough power, this mover would eliminate manual pushing and pulling. If it is small enough, it can also be built to be maneuverable. Add an ergonomically-designed handle, and a very viable forklift and motorized cart replacement is born.

Moving material safely is a concern in any ergonomic redesign. It is one element that you cannot take out of a production plan. It is also easy to accidentally swap one safety concern for another. A powerful Load Mover can safely and efficiently replace traditional methods of moving and their traditional consequences.