Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling

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Cal/OSHA Consultation Service, Research and Education Unit, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, California Department of Industrial Relations.
Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling was prepared for publication by the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service, Research and Education Unit, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, California Department of Industrial Relations.
It was distributed under the provisions of the Library Distribution Act and Government Code Section 11096.
Published 2007 by the California Department of Industrial Relations
This booklet is not meant to be a substitute for or a legal interpretation of the occupational safety and health standards. Please see California Code of Regulations, Title 8, or the Labor Code for detailed and exact information, specifications, and exceptions.
The mention of any company name or display or use of particular products in this booklet is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by the Department of Industrial Relations.
CNA Insurance Companies
Use of the term “partnership” and/or “partner” should not be construed to represent a legally binding partnership. The information, examples and suggestions presented in this material have been developed from sources believed to be reliable, but they should not be construed as legal or other professional advice. CNA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this material and recommends the consultation with competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this material in any particular factual situations. This material is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to constitute a contract. Please remember that only a relevant insurance policy can provide actual terms, coverage’s, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states. CNA is a service mark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Copyright © 2006 CNA. All rights reserved.
Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA)
These ergonomic guidelines are advisory only, having been promulgated with the sole intent of offering information for interested parties. They should be regarded only as a guide that the user may or may not choose to adopt, to modify, or to reject. They do not constitute a comprehensive or complete analysis and should not be relied upon as such.
There are no warranties whatsoever that attach to these guidelines or to any procedures that they may recommend. MHIA specifically DISCLAIMS AND MAKES NO WARRANTIES (EXPRESS OR IMPLIED) OF MERCHANTABILITY OR OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE and MAKES NO WARRANTIES REGARDING THE COMPLETENESS, ACCURACY, RELIABILITY, APPLICABILITY, OR AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THESE GUIDELINES. IN NO EVENT SHALL MHIA BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING LOST PROFITS, ARISING UNDER THE USE OF OR RELIANCE ON THESE ERGONOMIC GUIDELINES OR THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THEM BASED IN CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHERWISE, WHETHER OR NOT THEY OR IT HAD ANY KNOWLEDGE, ACTUAL OR CONSTRUCTIVE, THAT SUCH DAMAGES MIGHT BE INCURRED. Further, MHIA shall not be liable in tort, contract, or otherwise, whether based in warranty, negligence, strict liability, or any other theory of liability for any action or failure to act in connection with these recommended guidelines, it being the user’s intent and understanding to absolve and to protect MHIA, its successors and assigns, principals, and employees from any and all liability in tort, contract, or other liability.
These guidelines may contain information provided by third-party parties, and MHIA is not responsible or liable for the truth, accuracy, applicability, or reliability of any such information provided by third parties.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mention of any company name or product does not constitute endorsement by NIOSH/CDC.
This document is in the public domain and may be freely copied or reprinted.
For information about occupational safety and health topics, contact NIOSH at: 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) Fax: 513-533-8573 E-mail: [email protected]
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Publications Dissemination 4676 Columbia Parkway Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-131

Manual material handling (MMH) work contributes to a large percentage of the over half a million cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported annually in the United States. Musculoskeletal disorders often involve strains and sprains to the lower back, shoulders, and upper limbs. They can result in protracted pain, disability, medical treatment, and financial stress for those afflicted with them, and employers often find themselves paying the bill, either directly or through workers’ compensation insurance, at the same time they must cope with the loss of the full capacity of their workers.
Scientific evidence shows that effective ergonomic interventions can lower the physical demands of MMH work tasks, thereby lowering the incidence and severity of the musculoskeletal injuries they can cause. Their potential for reducing injuryrelated costs alone make ergonomic interventions a useful tool for improving a company’s productivity, product quality, and overall business competitiveness. But very often productivity gets an additional and solid shot in the arm when managers and workers take a fresh look at how best to use energy, equipment, and exertion to get the job done in the most efficient, effective, and effortless way possible. Planning that applies these principles can result in big wins for all concerned.
This booklet will help you to recognize high-risk MMH work tasks and choose effective options for reducing their physical demands.
Illustrated inside you will find approaches like: • Eliminating lifting from the floor and using simple transport devices like carts or dollies • Using lift-assist devices like scissors lift tables or load levelers • Using more sophisticated equipment like powered stackers, hoists, cranes, or
vacuum assist devices • Guiding your choice of equipment by analyzing and redesigning work stations
and workflow
NIOSH and Cal/OSHA are dedicated to finding the bottom line in state-of the-artresearch and turning the results into practical guidance for improving the safety and health of all workers. We hope you find the MMH booklet a useful and effective example of our efforts.

John Howard, M.D. Director, NIOSH

Len Welsh, M.S., J.D. Acting Chief, Cal/OSHA

The following organizations are responsible for the development and co-publishing of this booklet. To obtain copies of this booklet, contact any of the partners listed below.
Cal/OSHA Consultation Service Research and Education Unit 2211 Park Towne Circle, #4 Sacramento, CA 95825 Tel: (916) 574-2528
CNA Insurance Companies 333 S. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL 60604 Tel: (866) 262-0504
Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE) a Product Council of Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) 8720 Red Oak Blvd., Suite 201 Charlotte, NC 28217-3992 Tel: (704) 676-1190
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4676 Columbia Parkway Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998 Tel: 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674)


About This Booklet


Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace


What Manual Material Handling Is


Why Improve Your Workplace


What to Look for


Types of Ergonomic Improvements




A Proactive Action Plan


Improvement Options


1. Easier Ways to Manually Lift, Lower, Fill, or Empty Containers


2. Easier Ways to Manually Carry Containers


3. Alternatives to Manual Handling of Individual Containers




Appendix A. Administrative Improvements


Appendix B. Assessment “Tools”


Appendix C. Analysis Methods


Appendix D. Improvement Evaluation “Tools”


Appendix E. Organizations





About This Booklet
This booklet is written for managers and supervisors in industries that involve the manual handling of containers. It offers suggestions to improve the handling of rectangular, square, and cylindrical containers, sacks, and bags. “Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace” lists the benefits of improving your work tasks. It also contains information on risk factors, types of ergonomic improvements, and effective training and sets out a four-step proactive action plan. The plan helps you identify problems, set priorities, make changes, and follow up. Sections 1 and 2 of “Improvement Options” provide ways to improve lifting, lowering, filling, emptying, or carrying tasks by changing work practices and/or the use of equipment. Guidelines for safer work practices are also included. Section 3 of “Improvement Options” provides ideas for using equipment instead of manually handling individual containers. Guidelines for safer equipment use are also included. For more help the “Resources” section contains additional information on administrative improvements, work assessment tools and comprehensive analysis methods. This section also includes an improvement evaluation tool and a list of professional and trade organizations related to material handling.

Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace

Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace
What Manual Material Handling Is
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, handling is defined as:
Seizing, holding, grasping, turning, or otherwise working with the hand or hands. Fingers are involved only to the extent that they are an extension of the hand, such as to turn a switch or to shift automobile gears.
In this publication, handling means that the worker’s hands move individual containers manually by lifting, lowering, filling, emptying, or carrying them.
Why Improve Your Workplace
Manual handling of containers may expose workers to physical conditions (e.g., force, awkward postures, and repetitive motions) that can lead to injuries, wasted energy, and wasted time. To avoid these problems, your organization can directly benefit from improving the fit between the demands of work tasks and the capabilities of your workers. Remember that workers’ abilities to perform work tasks may vary because of differences in age, physical condition, strength, gender, stature, and other factors. In short, changing your workplace by improving the fit can benefit your workplace by: • Reducing or preventing injuries • Reducing workers’ efforts by decreasing forces in lifting, handling, pushing, and
pulling materials • Reducing risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., awkward postures from
reaching into containers) • Increasing productivity, product and service quality, and worker morale • Lowering costs by reducing or eliminating production bottlenecks, error rates
or rejects, use of medical services because of musculoskeletal disorders, workers’ compensation claims, excessive worker turnover, absenteeism, and retraining

What to Look for
What to Look for
Manual material handling tasks may expose workers to physical risk factors. If these tasks are performed repeatedly or over long periods of time, they can lead to fatigue and injury. The main risk factors, or conditions, associated with the development of injuries in manual material handling tasks include: • Awkward postures (e.g., bending, twisting) • Repetitive motions (e.g., frequent reaching, lifting, carrying) • Forceful exertions (e.g., carrying or lifting heavy loads) • Pressure points (e.g., grasping [or contact from] loads, leaning against parts or
surfaces that are hard or have sharp edges) • Static postures (e.g., maintaining fixed positions for a long time)
Repeated or continual exposure to one or more of these factors initially may lead to fatigue and discomfort. Over time, injury to the back, shoulders, hands, wrists, or other parts of the body may occur. Injuries may include damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. Injuries of this type are known as musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs.
In addition, poor environmental conditions, such as extreme heat, cold, noise, and poor lighting, may increase workers’ chances of developing other types of problems.
Types of Ergonomic Improvements
In general, ergonomic improvements are changes made to improve the fit between the demands of work tasks and the capabilities of your workers. There are usually many options for improving a particular manual handling task. It is up to you to make informed choices about which improvements will work best for particular tasks.
There are two types of ergonomic improvements: 1. Engineering improvements 2. Administrative improvements
1. Engineering Improvements
These include rearranging, modifying, redesigning, providing or replacing tools, equipment, workstations, packaging, parts, processes, products, or materials (see “Improvement Options”).

Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace

Your power zone

2. Administrative Improvements
Observe how different workers perform the same tasks to get ideas for improving work practices or organizing the work. Then consider the following improvements:
• Alternate heavy tasks with light tasks. • Provide variety in jobs to eliminate or reduce
repetition (i.e., overuse of the same muscle groups). • Adjust work schedules, work pace, or work practices. • Provide recovery time (e.g., short rest breaks). • Modify work practices so that workers perform work
within their power zone (i.e., above the knees, below the shoulders, and close to the body). • Rotate workers through jobs that use different muscles, body parts, or postures.

Administrative improvements, such as job rotation, can help reduce workers’ exposures to risk factors by limiting the amount of time workers spend on “problem jobs.” However, these measures may still expose workers to risk factors that can lead to injuries. For these reasons, the most effective way to eliminate “problem jobs” is to change them. This can be done by putting into place the appropriate engineering improvements and modifying work practices accordingly.
Training alone is not an ergonomic improvement. Instead, it should be used together with any workplace changes made. Workers need training and hands-on practice with new tools, equipment, or work practices to make sure they have the skills necessary to work safely. Training is most effective when it is interactive and fully involves workers. Below are some suggestions for training based on adult learning principles:
• Provide hands-on practice when new tools, equipment, or procedures are introduced to the workforce.
• Use several types of visual aids (e.g., pictures, charts, videos) of actual tasks in your workplace.
• Hold small-group discussions and problem-solving sessions. • Give workers ample opportunity for questions.


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Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling