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OSHA Material Handling Guidelines: Pushing, Pulling and Lifting

How much can your employees safely lift, push, or pull and are there any OSHA material handling guidelines that need to be followed?  Our experts weigh in on the sometimes confusing guidelines and provide practical advice for locating potential employee injuries and our favorite material handling equipment that makes the job safer for your employees.

OSHA Material Handling Guidelines for Lifting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than one million workers experience back injuries each year, with 75% of back injuries occurring while performing lifting tasks.  Manual materials handling is the principal source of compensable injuries in the American work force, and 4 out of 5 of these injuries will affect the lower back.

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA Act covers any hazards related to heavy lifting and back injuries, stating:

Each employer — shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

To make things confusing though, OSHA does not have a standard which sets limits on how much a person may lift or carry because the weight of an object alone does not determine the risk for injury to an employee. There are a multitude of other factors to be considered, such as:

  • How often is an employee lifting something.
  • Does the employee need to bend or twist while lifting.
  • How high is an object is lifted.
  • How long an employee needs to lift or hold the object.

Depending on these factors, an object that is safe to lift at one time can cause injury at another time. OSHA’s sister agency NIOSH has created a tool to assess the manual material handling risks associated with lifting and lowering tasks, which can be found here.  The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation also has a calculator for assessing risk levels associated with lifting various weights which you can use to assess your employee’s risk level for various activities: https://www.bwc.ohio.gov/employer/programs/safety/liftguide/liftguide.aspx

Why Invest in Injury Prevention?

Improving your workplace material handling process has benefits for the entire company:

  • Reduce/prevent injury that leads to absenteeism/workers compensation claims
  • Reduce workers’ efforts be decreasing physical exertion from lifting, pushing and pulling materials
  • Increased productivity and worker morale
  • Lowered costs by reducing errors caused by fatigue

Identifying places for improvement is as simple as walking around your workplace and look for employees performing repetitive tasks, bending in awkward positions, using a lot of force to move objects or employees stuck in the same position for extended periods of time. You can also look for clues by reviewing things like your OSHA Log 300, past worker reports or complaints, and workers’ compensation reports which will help identify areas for improvement.

Improving Material Handling

There are a variety of ergonomic material handling and assembly equipment designed for the unique needs of window and door manufacturers. Wakefield Equipment offers ergonomic material handling and assembly equipment designed to improve productivity while reducing the potential for injuries. From transporting glass across a shop floor to machines designed to lift and turn heavy materials, Wakefield Equipment has a way to make a glass shop floor safer while getting the job done faster and easier.

Some of our favorite material handling equipment for preventing injuries include:

Give Wakefield a call and let our experts help you reduce your risks and increase productivity through material handling equipment.

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