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General Orientation

Rev. November 10, 2020

Material Handling

It is important for any worker, whether in an office, on the road, or on a worksite, to understand the hazards that increase our risk of developing an MSD. MSDs are often associated with manual material handling tasks (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, etc.). However, it’s not enough just to understand the hazards of such activities. You must also learn and apply the principles of MSD prevention at your workplace.

Material Handling Standard

(Document Web Link)


Risk Factors

Risk factors for MSD injuries exist in almost all workplaces. Any tasks involving pulling, throwing,

lifting, or twisting can result in an MSD. It is useful to look for specific MSD hazards when conducting a workplace inspection, when completing your Field Level Risk Assessment or delivering a safety or tailgate meeting.


Musculoskeletal Disorder

A musculoskeletal disorder, or MSD, is an umbrella term for a number of injuries and disorders that affect

the muscles, tendons, tendon sheaths, nerves, bursa, blood vessels, joints, or ligaments.

Some examples of MSDs are muscle sprain and strain, lower back pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome,

lateral epicondylitis, tension neck syndrome, tennis elbow, and herniated discs. Though some of these injuries are often the result of sport activities, they may also be caused or made worse by what you do in the workplace. Forceful exertion, awkward positions, and repetitive tasks can add up over time to produce an MSD. MSDs are the number-one type of lost-time injury reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance

Board (WSIB). In 2013 they accounted for 35 percent.


Off-loading materials

• Park the vehicle in an area that is free of debris and where the ground conditions are dry and level

· Try to park as close as possible to where the material will be stored or used

· Get inside the back of the vehicle and move heavier materials close to the door or tailgate

· Get help lifting the materials out of the back of the vehicle


Moving or storing materials

· Check the path and clear up any debris or tripping hazards

· Ensure that pathways and hallways are safe (e.g., even out ruts on paths, ensure good lighting)

· Use handling equipment, such as dollies or carts, before attempting to lift or carry heavy materials

· Don’t overload yourself, take only as much as you can handle safely

• Do not attempt to manually lift materials over 50lbs without assistance

· If material is awkward or heavy, ask a co-worker to help you

· Store material above knee level and below shoulder height

· That makes it easier to pick up and reduces reaching or stooping

· Store material on skids or blocking to prevent it from getting frozen to the ground or stuck in mud


Using materials

· Use material-handling devices when working with heavier materials or get help from a co-worker.

· Take regular micro-breaks; get up, if only for a minute and stretch your back, shoulders, and legs when working in the same position for a long time

· Stretching is especially important if you have to lift something after you’ve been in the same

position or an awkward posture for a while

· Use work platforms (e.g., elevating work platforms) or special tools or devices to minimize awkward postures and overreaching

· Supervisors should consider rotating jobs with other workers to reduce repetitive stress injuries


Lifting Technique

· Always let your legs do the lifting

· Stand over the object and bend your knees

· Place your feet so that you are balanced

· Keep your back in a comfortably erect position

· Grip the object so that you can hold it securely, and check for slipping

· Lift by straightening your legs

· Pivot your feet if you must turn while lifting. Never twist your spine

· When walking with a load, short steps are best

· Do not bend over when setting a load

· Bend your knees until you are in the same position you were in when you lifted the object

· Ensure sure your fingers are free of pinch points when you set the object down

· Never attempt to lift a load that you perceive as too heavy for you to do alone

· Wear proper gloves or other protective equipment

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