One Man and a Hand Truck

Man with hand truck

Delivery drivers face a number of hazards in their daily routine.  As road warriors, they contend with bumper to bumper traffic, inclement road conditions, and all too frequently - the distracted driver.  Then there’s the climbing out of the cab (after “loading” the back muscles) followed by the bending and lifting and carrying.  They walk on uneven ground in blistering heat as well as in snow, sleet, and rain and tackle stairs, both up and down, to get their customers’ products and packages “safely” and swiftly delivered.  And, typically, they walk “out of the door and down all the streets all alone” even in shady neighborhoods from time to time. 

One particular delivery man got to thinking, “sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me” during his small, lightweight parcel deliveries but “other times I can barely see” on the occasion when he’d stack a bunch of boxes into his arms above his head blocking the view ahead.  Then lately it occurred to him, if he used a hand truck he’d be able to “keep truckin’, like the do-dah man”.  At the very least, he figured his sore back would be grateful and he wouldn’t be dead tired at the end of the workday.  But wait - back up the truck!  What about the material handling dangers of deploying a dolly or hand truck? 

OSHA recognizes the ergonomic hazards of hand truck use and provides possible solutions for torso bending, load angle, curbs and stairs, and tire maintenance in their Beverage Delivery eTool.  There’s also helpful information on delivery trucks, water delivery, beer kegs, and the delivery process itself with regard to delivery drivers failing to take ample rest breaks on their route as well as working in cramped quarters in customers’ coolers.

Here are some handy tips on hand truck safety the delivery man suggests to “just keep truckin’ on” safely.

  • Inspect hand trucks and similar equipment regularly for cracks in weld seams, handle grip deterioration, tire inflation and integrity, etc.
  • Practice safe lifting technique when loading the hand truck by keeping a straight back and assuming a squat position to recruit the powerful leg muscles.
  • Place the heavy items on the bottom of the truck for increased stability and position the load over the axles for better balance.
  • Secure the load to avoid slipping, shifting, or falling off the truck.  Some hand trucks come with a ratchet belt tightener.
  • Don’t stack items too high on the truck in order to see over the load.
  • Wear general purpose work gloves to protect hands and fingers, particularly when navigating the hand truck through doorways.
  • Use the correct cart or hand truck for the application. OSHA’s Beverage Delivery eTool provides examples of different types of material handling equipment for the job task.  Consider investing in a motorized stair climbing hand truck for bulky and heavy loads.
  • Whenever possible, push rather than pull the hand truck.   

For related information on material handling, check out these MEMIC posts:

And now the safety-minded delivery man realizes “what a long, strange trip it’s been” in becoming one smart man with a hand truck.

(Special thanks to the Grateful Dead and their song Truckin’ for inspiring this post.)

By Greg LaRochelle