Manual Materials Handling Guide

General workplace suggestions:

  • Utilize job rotation (rotate employees through different jobs)
  • Utilize job enlargement (increase variety by involving more tasks or employees in the process)
  • Ensure adequate rest periods
  • Modify work practices/environment to maintain neutral postures



  • Use mechanized lifts whenever possible
  • Minimize the distance loads need to be lifted/lowered
  • Avoid storing materials directly on the floor. (use table or shelving so loads can be placed no lower than knuckle height)
  • Tag/label unstable/heavy loads
  • Reduce the weight of the load by limiting capacity (i.e. smaller containers)
  • Clear spaces/paths to improve access to materials being handled
  • Stretch before and after lifting heavy loads
  • Keep loads as close to the body as possible
  • Lift with the legs, not the back
  • Keep the back straight, by sticking out the butt and keep your head up looking forward
  • Balance lifts on both sides of the body
  • Get a secure grip
  • Avoid twisting, pivot with the feet instead
  • Use both hands if possible
  • Use a ladder for overhead loads
Bad Lift

Bad Lift

Good Lift

Good Lift



  • Slide, drag, push or pull loads instead of carrying whenever possible
  • Clear a path
  • Tag/label heavy/unstable loads
  • Reduce capacity of container
  • Keep loads close to the body
  • Keep loads between knuckle and chest height
  • Minimize carrying distance by using wheeled dollies or carts
  • When carrying load with one hand, alternate hands throughout the carry
  • Use both hands when possible
  • Increase size of handles when possible
Carrying Technique



  • When possible, push instead of pull
  • Clear a path
  • Reduce capacity of container to reduce weight of load
  • Use wheeled carts/containers whenever possible
  • Stagger your legs to generate pushing/pulling force, avoid using your back
  • Use entire body to push/pull loads, avoid using the shoulders and arms
  • Push and pull with both hands whenever possible
  • Use equipment with four swivel wheels or castors to improve control
  • Proper maintenance of wheeled carts (lubricate, clean, replace wheels frequently)
Drawing showing a bad push (bent over) and a good push (upright)

Bad Push

Good Push

Workstation Design

Workstation design:

  • Height of table should encourage the elbow to relax at 90 degrees
  • Workbench height should be adjustable to accommodate the variance in individual height
  • Workbench height should be adjusted for the type of work:
  • Light work: at elbow height
  • Hard work: below elbow height
  • Precision work: above elbow height
  • Location of workbench should be minimal distance from other necessary tools
  • To minimize awkward postures, select tools based on the height of work and surface setup/design:

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