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Manual Material Handling Ergonomic Guidelines

Manual material handling work contributes to a large percentage of the 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.

Scientific evidence shows that effective ergonomic interventions can lower the physical demands of manual material handling tasks, thereby lowering the incidence and severity of the musculoskeletal injuries they can cause. Their potential for reducing injury related costs alone make ergonomic interventions a useful tool for improving a company's productivity, product quality, and overall business competitiveness.

Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling is designed to help managers recognize high-risk tasks and choose effective options for reducing their physical demands. The publication was developed by NIOSH, Cal/OSHA, Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE)--a Product Council of Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) --and CNA Insurance Companies. (Click on the EASE link to download a free copy.)

The booklet (68 pages) 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.

The first section, "Improving Manual Material Handling in Your Workplace," lists the benefits of improving 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 managers 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 a "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.

Source: Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE)

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