Last edited 10 May 2018

Material handling in construction

In the construction industry, the term 'material handling' refers to the delivery, movement, storage and control of materials and other products. This forms part of the logistics management of a project.

Types of plant used for material handling on site include; hydraulic excavators, telescopic handlers, cranes, forklift trucks, lifting devices, conveyor systems and so on.

From receipt and inspection of materials, through to storage, assembly and use, the material handling system should be well-coordinated and organised so that everyone on site is aware of how it works. When handling materials, safety should be the primary consideration. Pre-start inspections are critical, load limits should not be exceeded, method statements should be followed, and it may be necessary for a banksman to direct material movements around the site.

It is important to follow best practice guidelines when designing a material handling system for a construction project. For example:

  • The proposed system of material handling should be defined in terms of needs, objectives and functional specification.
  • Methods and processes should be standardised to avoid confusion.
  • Unnecessary handling or movement should be reduced or eliminated.
  • Working conditions and methods should have worker safety as the primary objective.
  • Unit loads should be optimised, to reduce work and risk.
  • Storage areas should be kept organised and clean, maximising density as much as possible and eliminating damage to materials.
  • Sites should be kept safe, clean and easy to move around.
  • Deliveries should be received and handled promptly.
  • Site waste management plans should be created and maintained.
  • Automated material handling technologies should be used where practicable.
  • Safety equipment such as PPE should be available.

Incorrect manual handling is a common factor in work-related injuries. This can be because of:

  • The weight of the item being handled.
  • The repetitive nature of the movement.
  • The distance the item is being moved.
  • Where the item is being moved to and from.
  • The posture of the individual. Any twisting, bending, stretching or other awkward position may exacerbate problems.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations place obligations on employers to manage the risks of manual handling to their employees. For more information see: Manual handling.

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