TBT4 Move Materials With Assist

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Washington University - St. Louis

Summary Statement

This tool box talk is fourth in a series of 6 developed by Washington University in St. Louis on construction ergonomics. This one focuses on preventing back injuries by getting an assist when manually lifting. It recommends using a cart for transporting loads, taking less trips, avoiding carrying materials on the shoulder and helping each other to lift large or heavy materials when a cart or hoist is not available.

Facilitator / Leader Tasks Before the Tool Box Talk (TBT)

  1. Read through this TBT guide.
  2. Walk the job site to find ergonomics examples based on the TBT. If possible, take photos of “safe” and “unsafe” examples at the site to be used during the TBT.
  3. Write down discussion questions to ask the group.

Learning Goals

After discussing this training topic, workers will have gained a general understanding of:
  • Back injury risks related to material handling.
  • Solutions for reducing manual lifting and back injury risks.


Image of training card.

The last page of this PDF has directions for printing and laminating the training cards.


Why should we talk about moving materials with an assist?

To save your back from wear and tear over time. Working smart now may protect you from feeling back pain and discomfort later.

Back pain can be related to deteriorating discs1 in the spine. When the discs break down it can result in painful muscle cramps, shooting pain or tingling and numbness down the legs, and in advanced cases, nerve damage, muscle weakness and paralysis of the legs. Back injuries are common, and after an initial strain, the back is more prone to injury. One major way to prevent back injury is by using assists when lifting large or heavy loads.

When possible: Use a cart for transporting loads to reduce carrying, take less trips, and to avoid carrying materials on your shoulder. Use WHEELS: dolly, cart, duct hoist, pallet jack or other device to reduce manual lifting.

Help each other to lift large sized or heavy materials when a cart or hoist is not available. Work with a TEAM. Keep floors clear of obstacles to minimize trip hazards and make use of wheeled carts/equipment easier.

Plan for the next day’s (or week’s) work tasks by talking with each other. Problem solve where to stage materials and plan for needed equipment to transport heavy or large materials.

Prep your work area by moving objects or debris to minimize trip hazards and clear a space for placing ladders and rolling carts.

Discussion Question: Describe a situation where you’d like to be able to use an assist to move materials.

  • What are some benefits to doing it this way rather than by yourself?
  • Other Questions:_____________________________________________

Training Note: Here are examples of hazards in different construction trades. Choose your trade or one that is similar to your group’s line of work that can be used as hazards and solutions examples.

Trade Hazards Potential Solutions Solutions Examples
Carpenter - Drywall Carrying a 1/2 “ thick 4’x10’ sheet of drywall without an assist.
  1. Work with a partner to lift drywall weighing more than 50 pounds2 or greater than 4’x12’ in size.
  2. Consider the use of a drywall lift device.
Image of drywall lift device.

Panellift® Drywall Lift, www.telproinc.com

Floor Layer Transferring multiple cartons of ceramic tile from a staging area to the installation area.
  1. Prep-plan this task by delivering pallets of materials close to the work area to reduce moving them.
  2. Use a rolling dolly cart to transfer the boxes and reducing carrying.
    • Work on technique of transferring the cartons by safely sliding the dolly under a stack of cartons so that manual lifting of the boxes onto the dolly is reduced.
Image of hand truck.

Magliner 3-Position Hand Truck, www.magliner.com

Sheet Metal Worker Lifting a large, 12 foot round duct piece overhead without an assist.
  1. Work with a partner when lifting large, heavy, or bulky objects.
  2. Use a duct lift to position the duct piece overhead and hold it in place while the worker installs it.

Duct Lift

Image of duct lift.

, www.genielift.com


  1. Grandjean E., Fitting the Task to the Man: A Textbook of Occupational Ergonomics. 4th ed. Taylor & Francis. 1988.
  2. United States Department of Labor. Ergonomics eTool: Solutions for Electrical Contractors. Weight of Objects. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/electricalcontractors/materials/heavy.html.
  3. Cal/OSHA. Keys to Success and Safety for the Construction Foreman. http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/foremanweb.pdf

Refer to the resources at our website: oshr.im.wustl.edu for more Tool Box TIPS.



Training Topic: Ergonomics -- Move Materials with Assist



Directions for Making Laminated Training Cards

The last page of this PDF has directions for printing and laminating the training cards.