The process of material handling carries several risks. A large number of workplace injuries worldwide are associated with material handling. On one hand, manual material handling tasks like lifting, carrying, and pulling are dangerous for workers. On the other hand, material handling equipment can also cause injuries by way of falling, overloading, and slipping. In this article, we will highlight the five essential steps for material handling safety.
The first and foremost step to improve material handling safety is to improve ergonomic factors. Ergonomic risk factors can cause unnecessary injury or fatigue in employees. These risk factors are commonly present in manual material handling environments. The major ergonomic risk factors are stressful postures while handling materials like bending or twisting, highly repetitive motions such as frequent reaching and lifting, and forceful exertions like carrying or lifting heavy loads. The solution is to identify all such ergonomic risk factors and minimize them by putting control measures in place to limit the exposure of employees to any kind of risk.
The Right Material Handling Equipment
Among the injuries caused by material handling, the highest share is of manual material handling. The solution is to install the right material handling equipment in the facility. Equipment such as articulating jibs and conveyor belts are safer for moving materials rather than carrying them manually. Not only does this help reduce material handling risks, but it also increases speed, efficiency, and productivity.
A very important part of employee safety is safety training. Safety training should be conducted frequently for all employees involved in lifting, carrying, loading, or transporting materials in any form. This is more important for newly hired employees. They should be trained on safe ways to handle material manually such as avoiding lifting materials from the floor or while seated. Regardless of the size of the equipment and the simplicity of using it, make sure that only authorized and trained individuals operate it. Moreover, your organization might require re-certification for the safety risks and potential safety compliance rules on an annual basis or another regular time cycle.
Personal protective equipment is essential for workers involved in material handling operations. Providing protective equipment to workers significantly reduces the risk of injuries when moving materials or dealing with machines. The basic protective equipment includes eye protection, helmets, gloves, steel-toed safety boots, and metal fiber or plastic metatarsal guards to protect the instep area from impact or compression.
Responding to Employee Fatigue
In material handling tasks, fatigue and discomfort of workers are very common. It is important to encourage early reports of fatigue and discomfort in employees. The manager must proactively respond and put control measures in place to prevent fatigue from developing into an injury.
Apart from following these five essential steps for material handling safety, a factory manager must look out for other factors in the workplace that can prove to be risky and take action to eliminate those. A safe workplace is key to a happy workplace.