In 2018, the global Material Handling Equipment (MHE) market was worth $26.62 billion. It is expected to reach $41.18 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 6.8%. The MHE industry has been the bedrock of global supply chains and the rapid growth of the e-commerce sector.

While automation is swiftly taking over material handling solutions, the issue of workplace safety remains a primary concern for most business owners. According to the latest report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5147 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2017, with transportation and material moving accounting for 47% of worker deaths in 2017.

These material handling injuries often lead to expensive medical treatments and worker’s compensations, and low employee morale, and result in a substantial loss of productivity. With increasing globalization, even the smallest downtime can cost your business a fortune. You need to have proper safety measurements in place to ensure your business continues to function smoothly.

Here are five safety tips you may find extremely useful when it comes to material handling.

1) Ensure Proper Employee Training

Training plays a vital role in preventing material handling equipment-related accidents. In fact, most modern material handling equipment requires trained operators. You can either hire certified employees or provide the necessary training to your existing ones.

The training should include but not be limited to the following:

  • Understanding the basics of pneumatic pressure based bulk material handling equipment.
  • Knowing how different types of conveyor systems function.
  • Finding out about the installation and commissioning of the required material handling equipment.
  • Understanding manual material handling hazards and how to avoid them.
  • Learning operations and maintenance of material handling systems, including automation and control skills.
  • Developing warehouse and storage skills such as sorting, packing, order picking, storing, unloading, and loading.

2) Provide Workers with the Latest Safety Gear

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can reduce the risk of workplace injury significantly. These specialized clothing and accessories protect workers from physical, chemical, and biological harms in some cases.

  1. Head – Head protection equipment includes helmets, hard hats, and other gears. Make sure there are no dents in the shell, and all the straps are devoid of any deformities.
  2. Face – Face protection gear includes gas masks, respirators, full-face respirators, face shields, safety glasses, and goggles depending on the work conditions.
  3. Hearing – You will need to provide workers with earmuffs and plugs if they are going to work in a noisy environment. The equipment must fit the ear canal perfectly.
  4. Body – You can use safety vests and full body suits to protect workers from hazardous spills, skin burns, radiation, and high or low temperatures.
  5. Hands and Legs – Safety gloves, knee and knuckle pads, and safety boots will protect your hands and legs from physical or chemical injury. Make sure to use slip-resistant gloves and boots to avoid a slip-and-fall accident.

When selecting the PPE, keep the following in mind:

  • Always use safety gear that complies with local, state, and federal PPE regulations.
  • Make sure the safety gear fits the worker properly. You can ask the workers to try the equipment before issuing it.
  • Train your employees to use the safety gear correctly. Also, make sure to explain the limitations of the safety gear and what they should do in case of an emergency.
  • Store the safety gear in a dry and clean place to protect it from environmental damage. If you are going to reuse it, make sure to clean it first.

3) Conduct Pre-Shift Inspections

Pre-shift inspections can help you identify potential safety issues in time. Before each shift begins and after it ends, ask your experienced and trained safety managers to perform a visual inspection of the equipment as well as safety gear.

You will most probably find cracked hoses, rusty metal components, and faulty or worn-out wiring and electronics during routine inspections. Ignoring these small issues can lead to a fatal accident resulting in considerable downtime. So, make sure to check the following:

  • Readability of manuals or instructions on the equipment.
  • Hydraulic and electrolyte fluid and oil levels.
  • Leaks, cracks, punctures, cuts, and other visible deformities.
  • Dust, moisture, and dirt build-up.
  • Straps, seats, railings, and other safety devices.
  • Frayed wires, cables, and connectors.
  • Loose hoses, straps, valves, restrain brackets, and coils.
  • Safety alarms, smoke and fire detectors, and lighting.

4) Take Extra Care for Manual Handling

In construction and heavy lifting industry, you often need to move oversized loads. Although you can use cranes, forklifts, and trucks, you will rely on manual help to a great extent. As a result, you will need to take extra care when handling heavy loads.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Allow only workers with required rigging safety training to handle such loads.
  • Know the accurate weight of the cargo before proceeding.
  • Use the right wire rope cables, rigging hooks, and overhead crane to move the load. It should be capable of carrying the cargo safely.
  • Make sure the load is secure and stable, and the operator has clear visibility.
  • You should raise or lower the load only when it is not in motion.
  • Move the load at a safe speed to avoid swaying. Keep the pathway clear.
  • Use blocking materials that are strong enough to support the cargo safely.
  • While handling smaller loads, use proper lifting techniques. Always encourage leg lifting, and ask workers to use lumber support belt whenever necessary.
  • You should also attach handles or holders to the cargo if required.

5) Check on Employee Fatigue

Despite an ergonomically-designed material handling process, your employees are likely to feel fatigued or tired. Even the simplest manual material handling tasks can take a toll on a worker’s health. You should have a standardized reporting system to identify and inform the floor manager of employee fatigue during every shift.

Always encourage your workers to report fatigue or any other health issues to their superiors immediately. Get it checked immediately to prevent it from developing into a grave injury, which will not only lead to expensive medical treatment but also considerable downtime.

Wrapping Up

Automation is on the rise in the material handling sector. However, the increasing use of machines doesn’t guarantee employee safety during material handling. You need to train your employees to follow safety guidelines, use protective gear, and keep the workplace free of potential hazards. Hopefully, the above five tips will help you set the foundation of a highly safe and productive workplace. Do you think we are missing something? Tell us what safety measures you take when operating material handling equipment in the comments section.