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January 23, 2013

Safety Tip: Handcart Use and Design

Using manual material handling equipment such as a handcart to move a load instead of carrying it can make the job a lot easier and safer for workers. But there are hazards involved with pushing, pulling, and guiding handcarts, especially if the equipment is not used properly. These tips from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety will help your employees avoid injuries and property damage from improper hand cart use.
  • Keep aisles clear of clutter.
  • Ensure aisles are wide enough to allow the worker to stand behind the cart and push.
  • Ensure corners can accommodate the moving cart without stopping and starting.

  • Use winches for large ramps; on smaller ramps use power assists (battery powered pushing devices).
  • If there are multiple ramps, consider using powered carts.
  • Include a hand or foot brake on the cart to help the operator control heavy loads.

Floor Condition:
  • Keep floors in good repair.
  • Ensure floors are clean (free of debris, dirt, dust, liquids, or spills).
  • If floors are very uneven, consider using powered carts.
Slow down prevent spills

Cart Wheels/Casters:
  • Use larger diameter wheels for easier rolling.
  • Swivel casters should be on the handle end of the cart.
  • Harder casters/tires generally require less force to roll than softer ones.
  • Air-filled wheels should not be used for heavy loads, as the tires may flatten and become harder to push.
  • Wider treads generally require more force to roll.

  • Handles on pallet trucks should be long enough to prevent the worker's feet from being struck by the body of the pallet truck.
  • Fixed horizontal handles should be 36 to 44 inches above the floor, with a minimum length of 8 inches.
  • Vertical handles (for narrow carts) allow workers find a comfortable hand position.
  • Handles should not be more than 18 inches apart to avoid increased load on smaller shoulder muscles.
  • Handles should be thick enough to grip easily - 1 to 1.5 inches.

Cart Size:
  • Large carts (longer than 4 feet and/or wider than 3 feet) are difficult to maneuver and should not be used in workplaces with narrow aisles.
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer's recommended load limits.

All cart operators should be trained on appropriate body positioning for the type of cart and load being handled, and how to safely maneuver heavy loads.

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