Manual material handling equipment, such as carts, hand trucks and pallet jacks are used for a variety of hauling operations and can make these operations safer. However, if this equipment is used improperly and not well maintained, it can become a safety liability. The most common risks are slips, trips, falls, back strains and pulls, crushed hands and toes, scraped fingers and knuckles, and collisions.
Obviously, people who will be using material handling equipment need to be trained in its use. They also need to learn and follow the safety rules for each particular piece of equipment.
Before beginning their workday, drivers, as well as warehouse personnel, should always inspect any material handling equipment they will be using to make sure it is operating properly, advise safety officials. An inspection takes only a few minutes but can save time, money and inconvenience later.
Any equipment with defects, repair needs or otherwise unsafe problems should not be used, and the conditions should be reported immediately, the officials say.
Along with a general overview of the equipment, safety officials say operators should examine the tires to look for wear. On equipment with pneumatic tires, the tires should be checked for proper inflation.
No type of material handling equipment should be operated if it isn’t in proper working order, they emphasize. Doing so risks damaging the load, but more importantly, increases the risk of injury to the operator or others.
In addition to following proper lifting techniques for loading and unloading, safety officials offer these general recommendations for safely operating manual material handling equipment:
Hand trucks
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load capacity rating. (The capacity plate is located on the hand truck.)
  • When loading, keep feet clear of the wheels.
  • Keep the load’s center of gravity as low as possible by placing heavier objects on the bottom.
  • Place the load so that it will not slip, shift or fall. This may require securing the load to the hand truck with straps.
  • To load a stack of product or a large item, tip the load slightly forward so that the tongue of the hand truck goes under the load. Then, push the tongue all the way under.
  • Load only to a height that will allow a clear view ahead.
  • Let the truck carry the load by balancing the load so the weight will be carried by the axle, not the handles. The operator should only balance and push.
  • Do not walk backward with a hand truck, unless going up stairs or ramps.
  • Move at a safe walking pace.
Four-wheeled hand trucks and carts
  • Ensure that the load is stable and arranged so that it will not fall or sustain damage if the cart or load is bumped.
  • Do not overload a cart or load it such that it obstructs the operator’s visibility.
  • Carts should be pushed using both hands from the end, not the sides. Pushing is easier on the back. It also prevents the cart from catching on an operator’s heels and reduces the risk of losing balance, slipping or falling.
  • Move slowly and cautiously.
  • Allow the cart to come to a rolling stop whenever possible.
Pallet jacks/walkie trucks
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load capacity rating. (The lift rating capacity plate is mounted on the equipment.)
  • Know how to properly use any controls and brakes.
  • Be aware of any pinch-point hazards involving the hands.
  • It is generally better to push the jack rather than pull it.
  • Never place your feet under the equipment.
  • Center the forks evenly under the load to maintain good balance.
  • Ensure the stability of the load.
  • Use both forks for lifting and moving a load.
  • Loads should not block an operator’s line of vision. For those that do, get someone to serve as a guide to assist in moving the load.
  • Always maneuver carefully and operate at a controllable speed.
  • When operating empty, go slowly. There is a greater tendency to tip when negotiating sharp turns or maneuvers.
  • Use extra caution in narrow aisles, on slopes and inclines and in other restricted areas where maneuverability is limited.
  • Stay alert for others and obstructions.
  • Never ride on the equipment or permit others to do so.
Safety officials say that by keeping these simple suggestions in mind, companies can help avoid any major manual material handling equipment incidents and injuries. BI