Ask the Back School: Tips for Material Handlers

Ergonomics March 3, 2020

Today we’re addressing a recent question from another Back School graduate who had some material handling questions regarding a new client they were working with.

“I’ve attended a couple of your live workshop and learned a lot! However, I am urgently needing help with a company I recently did an ergonomic evaluation for. It is a beer distribution company.

Two things that are of biggest concern: pushing/pulling heavily loaded hand trucks (150lbs or more every stop); and movement in tight spaces – specifically twisting/asymmetry motions. Important consideration is speed. They work fast to get done earlier. Thank you and have a great day!”

Tips for Material Handlers

Check out what Matt Jeffs, DPT, CEAS had to say in response:

“In order to be thorough, we recommend passing task-specific ergonomic issues – just like the one’s you’ve identified – through the OSHA Hierarchy of Controls for Hazard Prevention ( ). This multivariate approach allows us to look at solutions on several levels, over changing timeframes, and within variant budget constraints.

Follow the 6-step action plan process on the link – giving each level of the hierarchy it’s due – and you’ll be able to give your client a set of options, instead of trying to hunt for an elusive ‘silver bullet’ (that may or may not exist).

This process trains us as much as it does our clients. It makes us better ergonomists with broader influence on fluctuating conditions – in real time. This also gives the client an important role in signing-off on the option(s) you offer that make the most sense to them – also in real time.

In the end, what we aim for is offering our client an option EACH for 1) Elimination (Remove it), 2) Substitution (Replace it), 3) Engineering (Isolate it), 4) Administrative (Change its relationship) and 5) PPE (Protect from it). This all takes a little more time, but it offers more for the client. It also gives US more arrows in our ergonomic problem-solving quiver.

Once you’ve followed through on this, check out some of the material handling options here ( ) to add some more choices to your report. Lastly, this HAS to be a collaborative process involving the workers, or the likelihood of your suggestions being adopted diminishes. Hope this helps. And thanks for reaching out to The Back School!


Do you have any experience with similar clients? Any tips or questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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