You can’t beat wheelbarrows for fuel economy and low maintenance costs. They’re also safe when used correctly.
However, they are often used in an unsafe manner which results in serious injuries. Maybe that’s because their elementary design lulls some people into carelessness. But whether you are working around the lawn or on a job site, there is probably little concern shown about how to use a wheelbarrow correctly.
Like in the old joke about the fellow who was stealing wheelbarrows, the simplicity of a wheelbarrow and its innocent appearance make the load more conspicuous than the wheelbarrow itself.
Despite these assurances, the actual use or misuse of wheelbarrows can be hazardous. For instance, if you use a wheelbarrow for a job that should be handled by a hand truck, you could be headed for trouble. Your load could be damaged and so could the wheelbarrow. More importantly, an injury could result.
In a recent safety publication, a typical example of a wheelbarrow accident was outlined. A man was moving a loaded wheelbarrow when the wheel struck a rock. The wheelbarrow tipped and the handle struck his knee causing a painful lost-time injury.
In another case, a man was taking a wheelbarrow filled with scrap to a scrap box. The wheelbarrow gained speed as it went down a ramp, and when the wheel struck the edge of the scrap box, the whole wheelbarrow flipped. The man didn’t let go of the handles and was thrown into the scrap box. He suffered bad lacerations on his arms and legs and was lucky it wasn’t worse.
As some of you may have already found out, lacerated knuckles are common injuries in moving wheelbarrows through doorways or in other tight quarters.
However, there are safe procedures which can be used to eliminate the painful aspects of using a wheelbarrow. First of all, balance the load over the wheel.
In addition, you should raise and lower the handles using precautions similar to those for other lifting jobs that may threaten your back. When you raise and lower the handles, keep your back and arms straight and your knees bent, making use of your leg muscles.
You'll find that it pays to plan ahead. Observe the route you’re going to take. Avoid obstacles in your path which can throw the wheelbarrow off balance and tip it over.
Be sure to keep a tight grip on the handles and keep your speed under control. Should the wheelbarrow go out of control, let go of it. Shout a warning if others are nearby.
Safety glasses, safety shoes and a hard hat, if required for the job, are standard items of safety equipment which offer protection. In addition, work gloves should be worn. If a wheelbarrow is consistently used in tight quarters, it should be quipped with knuckle guards.
Never overload a wheelbarrow or attempt to move more than you are physically able to handle. Always watch out for other workers and also equipment or objects which might be damaged if bumped.
Wheelbarrows should be properly lubricated and stored in areas where they will not obstruct aisles, fire equipment or cause tripping hazards.
It should be apparent that although operation of a wheelbarrow requires a minimum of training, it also requires proper precautions if it is to be used safely.