NIOSH Offers Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling

NIOSH has posted online a booklet for managers and supervisors in industries that involve the manual handling of containers. The document offers suggestions to improve the handling of rectangular, square and cylindrical containers, sacks and bags.

Manual material handling (MMH) work contributes to a large percentage of the more than half a million cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported annually in the United States, according to NIOSH. 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, businesses must cope with the loss of the full capacity of their workers.

Their potential for reducing injury-related costs alone makes ergonomic interventions a useful tool for improving a company's productivity, product quality and overall business competitiveness. However, 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.

The booklet will help readers to recognize high-risk MMH work tasks and choose effective options for reducing their physical demands. The document discusses approaches including:

  • 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.

The booklet can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-131.

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