Hand Trucks

It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that when you’ve seen one two-wheeled hand truck, you’ve seen them all. They all look pretty much the same. But, there can be a big difference in the way each should be handled to do a job safely.

Persons using hand trucks should know their trucks and the types of jobs they were designed to handle. This is necessary for safe usage.

We’ve all loaded trucks with boxes and stacked them so high that the top box rested right under our chin. The time lost trying to make this juggling act work should prove that the smaller, safer load is the better way.
Two of the more common types of injuries truckers receive involve their hands and feet. So gloves should be worn to protect your hands, and if any of you have ever gotten in the way of a loaded truck and had its wheel slice off the toe of your shoe, you know why safety shoes are important.

Don’t try to hold a truck in place with your foot. It will result in an injury sooner or later. Well-equipped hand trucks have hand brakes and knuckle guards.
Hand trucks should be kept in good repair and inspected daily before use. It’s a good idea to keep maintenance records for each piece of equipment, recording lubrication dates and other work.
Generally, when operating two-wheeled hand trucks, these procedures should be followed:

  • Keep the center of gravity of the load as low as possible.
  • Put heavy objects below the lighter ones.
  • When loading, keep feet clear of the wheels. 
  • Place the load well forward so the weight will be carried by the axle, not the handles. 
  • The load should be placed so that it won’t shift or topple.
  • Allow for a clear view ahead. 
  • If a two-wheel truck is ever loaded in a horizontal position, raise it by using leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
  • Do the same when setting the load down. 
  • The truck should carry the load while the operator merely pushes and balances.
  • Never walk backwards with a hand truck.
  • When going down an incline, keep the truck ahead, when going up, keep it behind. 
  • Hand trucks should not be used where there is an incline of more than 5º. 
  • Move at safe speeds and keep the truck under control.

These same operating procedures also apply to four-wheeled trucks. But more care must be used in loading four-wheeled trucks to prevent their tipping. Four-wheeled trucks should be pushed rather than pulled, except a truck with a fifth wheel and a handle for pulling.
Truck handles should be left so they won’t cause tripping accidents or won’t be in the way of persons walking or working nearby. Fifth wheel trucks should have a wheel chained to the frame to keep the truck from moving when left standing.
The people who study accident statistics have pinpointed the main hazards which truckers are confronted with. They are: running wheels off bridge plates or platforms, colliding with other trucks or obstructions and jamming hands between the truck and doorjambs or other objects.
Special care should be taken at blind corners and doorways. When hand trucks aren’t in use, they should be stored in designated places where they won’t form obstructions or tripping hazards. Two-wheeled trucks should be stored on the chisel with handles leaning against the wall or the next truck. Wheels of trucks not in use should be locked.
Hand trucks make many jobs easier and because of this, we’re inclined to take them for granted. After all, it’s easy to get careless with a piece of equipment that doesn’t chop, punch or run with a load roar. But the potential dangers involved in hand truck operation have to be recognized and dealt with the same as any other equipment. So stay in control, be alert and watch your clearances.
The handling of empty skids and pallets may seem like a rather routine job to most of you, at least so far as safety is concerned.
But don’t be fooled. In doing this type of work, you perform certain acts that can easily result in injuries if safety precautions aren’t taken. Material handling causes more injuries than any other type of work in our state.
I can even be more specific and say that lifting is the leading type of accident suffered by people on the job. And, of course, in handling skids and pallets, lifting is a basic maneuver.
So let’s take a few moments to go over some of the steps we can take to keep injuries at a minimum. First, inspect the skids and pallets you’ll be working with for splinters, loose nails and other defects. If you find a unit that is unsafe, it should be set aside and marked for discard or repair.
Any lifting to be done should be performed with caution. Usually the handling of skids requires two men, whether stacking or discarding, and they should lift in unison. The same procedure should be used for lifting pallets if they are heavy or bulky.
Lifting should be done by bending your knees, then straightening your legs to lift. Keep your back straight and use leg muscles, not back muscles.
As an added safety measure while handling objects, there is certain protective equipment which should be worn. Leather work gloves will protect your hands and, of course, safety shoes will protect your toes.
You probably already realize how important a clean work area is to your safety and the safety of others. Well, a lot of safe housekeeping has to go into skid and pallet handling too.
Stacking should be done with care so that piles will be stable. Piles should be limited to a height of four feet and units should be stacked flat, never on end.
Piles and individual units must be kept clear of aisles and doorways, and they shouldn’t obstruct switch boxes, fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment. Runners and deck boards shouldn’t stick out into aisles where someone will bump into them or trip over them.
If possible, avoid walking on or stepping over skids and pallets as this can easily result in an accident.
Another thing that must be considered in stacking units is the weight capacity of the floor. The crush strength of units you’re working with shouldn’t be exceeded either. If you’re working with paperboard, you have to allow for its lower resistance, which makes it easier to be damaged than wood. It also will absorb more moisture which can weaken it.
Skids and pallets may look sturdy, but when you drop units you can weaken them. Noise has to be kept under control, too.
Sometimes separate skid runners and platforms are used. When this occurs, the platforms should be stacked flat in a rack – no more than 32 units high. Again, care must be taken when removing the platforms from the rack. Usually, a man is stationed on each side.
As I mentioned earlier, it may be necessary to discard certain units for scrap. In that case, trucks or dollies should be used, especially if the load is to be moved any distance. Loads of units to be discarded should be stacked carefully. Be on your guard for nails and splinters, and if disposal of the units is to be carried out by burning, all fire and safety regulations should be observed.
I’ve taken several minutes to cover some of the major points of safety in handling empty skids and pallets. They’re all pretty basic – the type of precautions that should be taken on many jobs. But, that’s the way it should go with safety. Develop safe practices and attitudes on one job and they’ll follow through in everything you do.