Hazards involving material handling can lead to serious worker injuries and even death. In particular, workers are at risk of injuries resulting from being struck by, caught between, or crushed by materials, equipment, lifting devices or vehicles. Workers are also at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, such as low back or shoulder injuries.
Proper material handling prevents these types of injuries.
The efficient handling and storing of materials are vital to industry. Activities involving material handling enable the supply of raw materials as well as a continuous flow of parts and assemblies through workplaces and ensure materials are available when needed.
Employers are responsible for protecting workers from material handling hazards.
Some of the hazards workers could be exposed to include:
- poorly maintained lifting devices
- exceeded load limits on lifting devices
- damaged racking and storage units
- lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying loads that are too heavy or done too repetitively
- material handling while on a ladder, mobile ladder or step stool
- being struck by or caught between materials or being caught in pinch points
- falling materials that are improperly stored
- incorrectly cutting ties or other securing devices
- contact with moving equipment, vehicles, lifting devices and/or their unsecured loads that fall or collapse
- storage and movement of items on mezzanines that have no guardrails
Some general duties of workplace parties
Some examples of employers’ duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA):
- provide information, instruction and supervision to workers to protect them from material handling hazards
- take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers from musculoskeletal disorders, such as low back or shoulder injuries
- ensure equipment, materials and protective devices required by the regulations (such as lifting devices and mobile equipment, etc.) are provided and maintained in good condition
Some examples of supervisors’ OHSA duties:
- ensure workers comply with the OHSA and its regulations
- ensure any equipment, protective device or clothing required by the employer is used and/or worn by workers
- advise workers of any potential or actual health or safety dangers known by the supervisor
- if prescribed, provide workers with written instructions about measures and procedures to be taken for the workers’ protection
- take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers from material handling hazards
Some examples of workers’ OHSA duties:
- use or operate equipment (such as lift trucks or other lifting devices) in a safe manner
- work in compliance with the OHSA and its regulations
- report any known workplace hazards or OHSA contraventions (such as missing slip-resistant feet on ladders, poorly maintained storage systems) to your supervisor or employer
Workers should also be aware of their OHSA rights, including the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to know about any potential hazards they may be exposed to in the workplace.
Regulations for Industrial Establishments (O. Reg. 851)
In addition to the OHSA duties, the Regulation for Industrial Establishments outlines specific requirements for the:
- safe lifting, moving and storage of materials and
- safe maintenance and operation of lifting devices, cranes and other equipment.
Workplace parties should all work together to address material handling hazards in their workplace. This includes employers, supervisors, workers, Joint Health and Safety Committees and health and safety representatives.
Workers should be encouraged to report any concerns to their supervisors.