Manual Materials Handling on a Construction Project



Kevin Gillespie: My name's Kevin Gillespie. I'm the regional ergonomist for the Ontario Ministry of Labour's eastern region.

Banner: "University of Waterloo, Ergonomics Lab"

Kevin: An ergonomist is a person that focuses on matching the demands of the job to the physical capabilities of the individual.

Ed Wilson: My name's Ed Wilson. I'm a Ministry of Labour Inspector in the central region. Today, we're at the LIUNA Local 183 Training Centre in Vaughan. We'll be showing you some things that Ministry of Labour Inspectors and Ergonomists look for on a construction project, regarding manual materials handling.

"And how many workers do you have here today?"
"Do you usually have that many?"

Kevin: Manual materials handling is lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, or holding of an object.

"Kevin Gillespie. Regional Ergonomist with the Ministry of Labour."

Ed: Typically, I would visit a site alone but sometimes I have an Ergonomist come with me if there's MSD hazards.

Kevin: Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are injuries to the musculoskeletal system such as bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. The key risk factors that could cause a musculoskeletal disorder are force repetition and posture.

Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common type of injury in workplaces, accounting for over 40 percent of all lost-time injury claims in Ontario workplaces.

"So Mike, do you have a notice of project for this job?"

Ed: My inspection typically begins with an administrative review. I would ask for the site supervisor and the health and safety rep. I'd be looking for policies and procedures regarding manual materials handling.

"And are you tracking your musculoskeletal disorders due to manual material handling?"

Kevin: We look at injury records for the company and training that has been done for workers to address the hazards. We'll look for risk assessments that have been performed and control measures that are put in place to avoid those hazards.

Ed: We would then do a physical walk-through of the construction project, looking for any manual material handling concerns.

Kevin: We'll look for proper lifting techniques and how material is being handled by workers, access and egress into the worksite. Also we would be looking for evidence that regular maintenance is being conducted on equipment.

We would look for where material is obtained from and placed to, how frequently it is handled, how close it is possible to keep it to the body or away from the body, depending on the size and shape of the object and the weight of the object handled.

Ed: Having your work positioned at a more reasonable height puts less stress on the body.

It's important that there are no obstructions so that workers have an easy access from one point to another, so there are no fall hazards and no trip hazards.

"So who's using the ladder today?"


"Do you know if they've had safe ladder access training?"

Ed: Workers should ensure that they use three-point contact when ascending and descending a ladder and they should also follow the best practices in the construction industry ladder use guideline.

"Have all those trades had safe lift training?"

Kevin: Some of the reasonable precautions that workplace parties can take to protect workers from musculoskeletal disorders are performing risk assessments and putting in place control measures and providing training to workers.

Ed: Some options that workers can use when lifting or moving material are forklifts, carts, dollies, lifting devices and positioning of the material and equipment.

Kevin: Everyone shares a responsibility for workplace safety. MSDs are preventable. With proper design of the workplace, this type of injury can be avoided.

Ed: For more information on prevention of MSDs, visit these websites.

Kevin: Also you can refer to the musculoskeletal disorder prevention guideline.

URLs at end:

Special Thanks:

LIUNA Local 183 Training Centre
University of Waterloo