A good topic for driver and warehouse worker safety meetings ishand truck safety. While this might seem to be a minor issue, the proper use of hand trucks can reduce one of the industry’s leading workplace safety issues: musculoskeletal stress injuries and, in particular, back injuries.
The other most common injuries that result from pushing, pulling and maneuvering hand trucks are:
  • Strain injuries — predominantly for shoulders, arm muscles and joints.
  • Fingers and hands being caught in, on or between the hand truck and other objects.
  • Toes, feet and lower legs being bumped or crushed by the hand truck.
  • Slips, trips and falls.
Studies have shown that maintenance and improper weight distribution are responsible for the greatest number of injuries to operators of hand trucks. Among the factors making for the highest risk of potential injury were:
  • Underinflated hand truck tires place undue stress on the musculoskeletal system.
  • Unequal weight distribution of product cases increases back compressive force during lifting, increasing the risk of back injury.
  • Improperly located product requires twisting and lifting from un-optimal heights, increasing the risk of back and shoulder injuries.
  • Improperly balanced hand truck loads place unnecessary musculoskeletal stress on operators.
While hand trucks would seem to be fairly simple devices, basic safety procedures need to be followed when using them. Reviewing the following fundamentals with operators of hand trucks can help minimize hazards to them and others.
  • Use a hand truck that is appropriate for the job and the load to be carried. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. This is noted on the hand truck’s capacity plate.
  • Follow proper lifting techniques when placing loads on a hand truck. These include: • Stand close to the load with the feet spread apart about shoulder width, with one foot slightly in front of the other for balance. • Lift close to the body. • Bend the knees — not the waist — and keep the back straight. • Tighten abdominal muscles. • Get a firm grasp of the object before beginning the lift. • Lift with the legs by straightening them. Lift smoothly, but not slowly. Do not jerk the load or twist the body during lifting. If it is necessary to turn while carrying the load, turn using the feet — not the torso. • When lowering or placing the load after lifting, follow the same procedures in reverse order. Remember to keep the back as vertical as possible and bend at the knees.
  • When stacking items on a hand truck, keep the center of gravity of the load as low as possible by placing heavier objects below lighter objects.
  • Keep feet clear of the wheels when loading a hand truck.
  • Load the hand truck only to a height that will allow a clear view ahead.
  • When carrying multiple boxes side by side, attempt to stagger them to “lock in” the boxes.
  • Make sure the load will not slip, shift or fall.
  • Balance and push the load forward on the axle of the hand truck. This allows the weight to be carried by the axle, not the handles. This is done by adjusting the hand truck’s tilt angle until the center of gravity is vertically positioned above the axle of the hand truck. This is known as the balance point. Little force is required to maintain this balance and it provides the lowest effort on the part of the operator while moving a load.
  • Plan the route of travel and be aware of potential hazards that could be encountered.
  • Use caution when maneuvering through tight spaces to avoid getting fingers and hands pinched between the handles and nearby stationary objects.
  • Avoid walking backward with a hand truck.
  • When negotiating stairs or inclines, the hand truck should always be “down hill” from the operator. If going down, the hand truck should be kept in front of the operator. If going up, it should be kept behind the operator.
  • Always maintain a safe speed and keep the hand truck under control.
  • Keep hand trucks properly maintained. A poorly maintained hand truck will greatly increase physical stress on the operator. This is especially the case if the tires are under or unevenly pressurized, as the operator’s arms, back and legs must provide more force to move the hand truck.
  • Inspect hand trucks and carts routinely for defects, rust, loose bolts and other unsafe conditions. Do not use them if they are not in good repair. Be sure to have any problems corrected.
With a little practice, precautionary methods such as the ones presented here can become good daily habits that can help prevent hand truck incidents and avoidable injuries, which helps keep operating cost down. BI
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