There are a great many hazards associated with material handling. Materials come in various sizes, weights, and shapes, and are constantly being moved around the worksite. One study concluded that 80% of workplace injuries were related in some way to material handling. We have to determine the best way to move and handle all kinds of materials with maximum safety.
Most of the materials we use are handled manually. Always use proper lifting techniques [see "Oh, My Aching Back!" Weekly Safety Meeting Vol. 22, No. 5, 2/1/99] Protect your hands, fingers, and toes. Wear gloves to avoid cuts from sharp or jagged edges. Be sure you allow enough clearance so you can avoid wedging your fingers between pieces of material. A good pair of sturdy safety shoes or boots will protect your toes.
When a load is too heavy to handle alone, get some help. Call a co-worker, use a cart, dolly, or hand truck; or call for a forklift or crane. When a crane is handling a load, you must be alert and stand clear so you aren't caught under the boom or load. If you're in charge of rigging or preparing these loads, have the proper slings and carriers to secure them. The crane operator is responsible for making sure that the load isn't too heavy for the crane. Whatever type of help you choose, make sure that the entire load is stable and secure before you move it.
If the task requires unloading a truck, keep in mind that the load may have shifted during transit. When you remove the straps or chains the load could shift or slide further, so make sure you are in a safe position. Placing a load on a truck may cause the truck to tilt or even sink into the mud - plan for these possibilities.
Proper stacking of materials is also important. The lay down area should be on firm, level ground, and should be a safe distance from traffic areas. Stack the materials so that they will not slip, slide, or fall over.
Material handling isnt just about incoming building materials. Scrap and waste materials have to be removed from the job. Dont throw scrap or spare materials off of the building. Move them in a cart, bucket, or bin, or use a chute that contains the materials as they fall to the dumpster.
You can't avoid handling materials, but you can avoid being injured in the process. Knowledge and common sense will prevent injuries when handling materials.