Lead Forensics

How trolleys should be designed and used

A steel trolley appears to be simple technology – join together a few lengths of tubular steel, add a wooden top and bottom, and fit some casters and a handle to complete the construction. When designing and using trolleys though, there are many things to consider.

Height and load weight

A trolley being pushed should not be so high that it blocks the clear line of sight. The height should not be based on the tallest worker, but be able to accommodate shorter than average height workers.

If a trolley is at the right height, but loads are piled up to obscure sight, operators will tend to lean sideways to see, and this can cause back problems. High loads on narrow trolleys are also difficult to control and may tend to move sideways.

There is a limit to how heavy a load can be before it becomes too difficult to push. The weight of the trolley contributes to the weight. As a rough rule, the trolley should not be more than 20% of the weight it is made to carry. One advantage of tubular steel is that it is hollow, which reduces the overall weight of the trolley. If possible, divide heavy loads between more than one trolley.

Strong casters

Casters need to be mounted so that they can swivel freely. Their mounting plate must remain horizontal and the stems vertical, otherwise they will be difficult to steer.

Casters obviously need to be strong enough to carry the loads for which the trolley is designed.


The width of a trolley needs to be narrower than the narrowest doorway in the workplace. Trolleys that stay in one area and never have to go through doorways can be wider, but trolleys that do use doorways need to be several inches narrower than the doorway to make them easy to maneuver through.


A trolley’s length should be between 1½ to 2 times its width, otherwise it may be difficult to move around corners. Short trolleys are fine for light loads. Trolleys that are too long are more difficult to steer if carrying heavy loads.


Shelves should not protrude outside of the trolley, neither should loads on shelves overhang the trolley. Heavy loads should not be put on the bottom shelf as it is more difficult to lift them off and on without causing strain.


A trolley should have at least one handle. If the trolley is pushed by the corner post or side edges, there is a risk of crushing the fingers on walls. The height of handles should be optimal for the average height of workers.

Trolleys with two swivel casters and two fixed ones should have the handle at the swivel end. Handles should be round to make them more comfortable to push.

Steely Products has a long experience of designing trolleys, so you don’t have to. We make sure we supply you with trolleys that are perfect for the jobs you need them to do.

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