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How to use box trolleys safely

Many businesses use box trolleys, often with several of them operating at the same time. Like all manual handling procedures, care needs to be taken to operate box trolleys safely.

Compared to forklift trucks and other motorised equipment in warehouses, box trolleys are much safer, but there have been accidents involving box trolleys. With a few simple precautions, the risk of accidents can be minimised.

Clothing

Though workers do not necessarily have to wear special protective workwear when using box trolleys, suitable clothing needs to be worn. Shoes should be non-slip, especially if using trolleys on smooth floors. Gloves are advisable for carrying objects on and off trolleys. If box trolleys are operated outside in cold conditions or in cold stores, gloves are mandatory protective clothing.

The load

The manufacturer of the trolley will have specifications for the maximum weight that the trolley was designed to carry. This should never be exceeded, and the load must be safely placed on the trolley. If several items are carried, distribute them evenly amongst the boxes. All loads need to be stable, especially if boxes are stacked. The load should not obstruct wheels or handles.

If box trolleys carry liquids, they should be handled with care. Any sudden movement or stopping could cause the liquid to move forward and this can affect the centre of gravity of the load, causing instability.

The workers

Though pushing or pulling a trolley appears to be a task that anyone can do there are aspects to the job that means it is not suitable for every member of staff. The initial force to get the trolley moving may be considerable with heavy loads.

Trolleys should never be operated by people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Operators should be physically fit and capable of lifting items on and off the trolley.

Care should be taken about how long workers are allowed to work without a break, as it is not a good idea to pull trolleys when overtired. Workers need to be able to concentrate fully so that they avoid bumping into objects.

Purchasing box trolleys

Buy box trolleys from a reputable supplier or manufacturer. The best quality box trolleys are made from strong tubular steel and designed to last a long time when used daily. A good British manufacturer of box trolleys employs skilled metalworkers who make sure that all lengths of tubular steel are welded together and will not fail when transporting heavy loads. Good quality casters make box trolleys easy to push and steer.

The trolley needs good handholds, and handles should be at about waist height. If they are to be operated by tall or short people, bespoke trolleys with higher or lower handles may be needed.
The trolley should be easy to steer, and easy to start and stop.

Boxes on the trolleys can be fixed or loose. If loose, there should be no danger of them falling off the trolley as it moves. If the trolley has brakes, these need to be effective.

Maintenance

Though well-made box trolleys will normally operate trouble-free, box trolleys need checking everyday pre-shift. Welded joints need to be examined to make sure that they are still sound. Casters need to easily turn and steer.

The environment

The floors where box trolleys are operated need to be checked for debris and objects that could cause a collision hazard. Floors should be level, as box trolleys are not suitable for use on inclines.

Entrances and doorways should be wide enough to safely move trolleys through. If not, consider purchasing narrower box trolleys.

Risk assessment

Box trolleys can either be pulled or pushed and this saves lifting and carrying. There is a risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), so as with all practices that have potential health risks, it is important to do a risk assessment for operating box trolleys.

A risk assessment will describe common jobs that the box trolley operator does and the expected weight of the load. The frequency of the operation needs to be noted and the approximate distance. If the operation requires more than one worker, this should be noted. If workers have to twist the load around obstacles, this too must be logged.

It is recommended that all trolleys be checked before work, but it is also a good idea to have a regular check by an expert inspector, and this should be noted in the risk assessment.

There needs to be a detailed assessment on a scale of low to high about each component of the operation. For example, if there is a high initial force required to get the load moving, this could be a high risk.

All workers need to be aware of the risks of manual handling equipment. If the box trolleys are operated outside, then they may not be safe in heavy rain, snow or ice.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has lots of information about trolley and other safety matters at its website – hse.gov.uk

Low risk

Provided that the above health and safety considerations are followed, using box trolleys should be a low-risk process.

Box trolleys are useful for carrying many small objects around the warehouse or storage area. Online retailers rely on them for pick and packing operations. As warehouse operators get busier and busier fulfilling online orders, product movement becomes more and more prominent. Good sarrive for placing on warehouse shelves, forklifts carry pallet loads of goods, and many box trolleys are in transit picking goods off shelves and taking them to dispatch stations. This creates a high risk of accidents, but careful risk assessment and staff training can minimise this.

In the future, automated systems may take over, with robots and driverless vehicles replacing some workers at Amazon and Ocado warehouses, but for most business, this will be far into the future. In the meantime, the safe operation of box trolleys helps keep warehouses organised and efficient. Taking a few simple steps makes sure that using box trolleys in very busy warehouses is safe and reliable.

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