Making the Right Move: Keeping Workers Safe in the Moving Industry
Creating a safe working environment in the moving industry is important but comes with unique challenges.
- By Nancy Zafrani
- May 05, 2023
Every year, hundreds of thousands of injuries affect professionals in the moving industry, from herniated discs to carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you work in this field, you likely know how common these kinds of injuries are and how detrimental they can be to your colleagues. Do you know how to prevent them though?
Below, you’ll learn more about the risks associated with creating and maintaining safety in the moving industry. You’ll also discover how to mitigate these risks and protect your employees.
When moving boxes, furniture and other heavy objects, professional movers can experience a wide range of injuries, including:
- Cuts and scrapes
- Muscle strains, sprains and tears
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Crushing injuries (if an object falls on the mover)
- Herniated spinal discs
- Overexertion injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal disc degeneration, etc.)
- Overheating, dehydration and heat stroke
Overexertion can also put too much stress on the vital organs. For example, if they try to move objects that are too heavy for them—especially if they’re working in less-than-ideal conditions, such as extreme heat—they could experience a heart attack.
Legal Compliance and Industry Regulations
Several organizations are tasked with regulating the professional moving industry, including the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and local agencies, including state public utilities commissions and departments of transportation
The USDOT and FMCSA license all moving companies performing state-to-state moves. The FMCSA creates safety regulations for moving companies and keeps track of USDOT numbers to ensure all moving companies are compliant with federal rules.
State public utilities commissions and departments of transportation implement additional safety rules and regulations, including ensuring moving companies have the proper licenses.
OSHA has also created national standards and guidelines that employers (including moving company owners) are encouraged to follow. The guidelines regarding safe lifting are fundamental for professional movers to abide by.
If you don’t abide by the rules and regulations implemented by the organizations discussed above, you put your employees’ safety at risk and also risk being penalized as a business owner. You could incur fines from government organizations, for example, or you could be sued by an employee who gets injured on the job.
Adequate Employee Training
Proper safety training and education are critical to preventing injuries and avoiding common moving mistakes, including improper lifting. The following are some of the most important topics to cover during employee training.
Proper Heavy Lifting Techniques. For professional movers, heavy lifting occurs every day, sometimes multiple times per day. Here are some guidelines you should teach your employees to prevent lifting injuries like muscle strains and sprains.
- Squat down to lift with the legs rather than the back
- Take your time when lifting and focus on the specific item in front of you
- Communicate appropriately when team lifting to identify when and how the object will be lifted and where you’ll take it
- Clear walking pathways before performing lifts
It’s also vital that professional movers avoid “ego lifting.” In other words, if they have questions about whether or not they can lift an object, they should ask for help.
Using Proper Equipment. Professional movers should have easy access to a variety of tools that help them safely and efficiently transport heavy objects. Dollies, carts, back harnesses and furniture sliders are some of the most critical pieces of equipment to have on hand.
Professional movers should also wear proper protective equipment on the job. For example, they should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and gloves to protect the skin, as well as steel-toed boots to avoid crushing injuries.
Bringing Enough People to Each Job. People are more likely to get hurt on the job if a team is understaffed. An insufficient number of movers will increase the chances of people lifting too much weight, lifting alone when they should have a partner, etc.
Managing and Minimizing Risks
Following the guidelines discussed in the previous section can significantly reduce the chances of employee injury. You can take a few additional steps to manage and mitigate risks, though.
Use Proper Packing Techniques. If your moving company offers packing services, you and your team should take care to pack boxes in a way that reduces the risk of injury. Bring plenty of packing supplies, including boxes, packing paper, blankets, utility knives and tape.
When packing, place heavy items in small boxes and light items in large ones. Within each box, it’s also essential to layer the heaviest items on the bottom and gradually lighten the load as you get closer to the top.
Avoid overfilling boxes, too. Overfilling creates instability and increases the chances of the boxes opening while being moved.
Sufficient Cleaning. Keeping the workspace clean can prevent injuries and maintain a safe environment for everyone. A little mess is expected during a moving job, but you can avoid severe issues by:
- Keeping all debris off the floor.
- Not storing slippery items like cardboard, paper, plastic wrap or bubble wrap on the floor.
- Keeping exits, aisles and hallways open.
- Cleaning up any broken glass right away and storing it in a clearly labeled container.
It’s easy to neglect these tasks when things get busy. The more you prioritize them, the less likely you are to run into challenges.
Provide First Aid Training and Equipment. Keep a defibrillator on hand to provide support to employees if they have a heart attack on the job. Provide proper first aid training to your employees, too (as well as regular refresher courses), so that everyone knows what to do if an accident occurs.
Safety-First Company Culture
Creating a support, safety-first company culture at your business also helps to prevent injuries and other issues. Encourage proper training, discourage “ego lifting” and other unsafe practices and let your employees know that you value their safety over getting the job done as quickly as possible.
Protect Your Moving Team Today
Many unique challenges affect professionals in the moving industry, from fractured bones to heat stroke.
The more you understand the risks your employees face, the easier it will be to provide proper education and create a workplace culture that mitigates them (while still helping you provide quality service to your customers).
Start with the suggestions discussed in this guide to begin making positive changes at your company to keep everyone safe and happy.