Jan. 31 2007 04:44 PM

Delivering packages on a hand truck is nothing new. Drivers have depended on hand trucks for decades to make delivering bulky or heavy items easier. Seems simple, but like anything else in the workplace, there is potential for personal injury if not used correctly. These risks are greatly reduced if you follow a few basic principles.


Select the Right Tool for the Job

Always start by choosing the correct hand truck for the type of deliveries you make. The right tools and accessories can improve the safety and efficiency of deliveries.

Hand trucks with brakes are perfect for moving packages on inclines or ramps. They allow you to better control the load, which is safer and easier on your back.

Convertible hand trucks those that transform from a hand truck to a platform truck allow you to move more volume more quickly. These trucks save trips and are safer for larger, heavier loads.

An accessory bag attached to a hand truck provides a secure place to carry hand-held computers, pencils and other supplies.


Weight Does Matter

The weight of a hand truck can vary by as much as 30 pounds! Hand truck weight can make a significant difference on driver stress and fatigue. Drivers use muscles, slowly causing degeneration. Most injuries dont happen from one-time occurrences they happen from repetitive movements over time, so even a few pounds can make a big difference.


The average package delivery driver will lift nearly 12,000 pounds less per year by selecting a hand truck just three pounds lighter. And you dont have to give up strength to enjoy the benefits of a lighter truck. There are quality hand trucks made of lightweight aluminum/magnesium components available. These trucks represent the best strength-to-weight ratio for drivers.


Check Your Hand Truck Daily

Before you begin your workday, always inspect your hand truck. An inspection takes only a few minutes but can save you time and inconvenience later.

Conduct a general overview look for any bent or broken parts and repair or replace immediately.

Check the tires look for wear and check to be sure they are properly inflated (if pneumatic tires).

Review fasteners tighten any loose bolts.


Maintenance is important to your safety and the longevity of your hand truck. Never use a hand truck that isnt in proper working order. If you use a broken hand truck, you risk damaging your load and, more importantly, you risk injuring yourself or others.


In the Delivery Vehicle

To avoid accidents and prevent damage to your hand truck, always make sure to fasten it securely inside your truck with a strap or other device. Remember to take care entering your truck. Look down and around your truck for wet or slippery surfaces. Use your hand grips. This seems pretty basic, but because you will enter your truck repeatedly throughout the day, it can cause back problems and strains if done incorrectly.


The same is true for exiting your truck. Look down for slippery conditions and use your hand grips. Step down; dont jump. The impact from jumping puts undo stress on your spine, knees and muscles and increases the risk of falling.


At the Delivery Location

Once you arrive at your destination, scope out the best path. Everyone wants to take the shortest route, but sometimes, to avoid traffic or an unsafe surface, you might need to go a little bit out of your way.

Make sure your path is clear, and check for uneven surfaces like cracks, holes and curbs.

Take note of high traffic areas, and watch out for people and vehicles.

Check for blind corners and doors that you may need to prop open or those that open toward you.

Move obstacles out of your way if possible.


Loading Your Hand Truck

When it comes to loading your hand truck, little details can make a big difference. Stacking items properly can prevent package damage and make a safer, more secure load.

Stack your load one item at a time, centering each piece so the load is balanced and stable. A stable load is easier to control, and thereby safer.

Dont forget your lifting basics. Use your legs, not your back. Never twist with your back, turn with your feet instead.

Never stack your load above eye level. Blocking your vision can cause you to spill your load, injuring yourself or others.

Put the heavy items on the bottom, lighter items on top. Proper loading protects the lighter items from being crushed and creates a more balanced load.

Overloading or incorrectly loading a hand truck can cause you to spill your load, damage packages and endanger your

self and others. Making an additional trip may be faster than spending time cleaning up fallen packages.


Negotiating Curbs and Stairs

Whenever possible, push a hand truck in front of you instead of pulling. This reduces back strain and allows you to see whats ahead. Use a curb ramp so you push the hand truck up over curbs instead of dragging it backwards. For safest load control, always square-up your approach to the curb ramp and roll the hand truck through the middle of the ramp.


Stairs and curbs (without a ramp) are the exceptions to the rule. Adding stair climbers to a hand truck can make it easier to glide hand trucks on steps and curbs. Pull up smoothly and let down smoothly, moving in a straight path. Using stair climbers also avoids bouncing tires on stairs, which helps control the load.


Other Tips to Keep in Mind

Maintain a smooth, safe speed that allows you to stop your hand truck unexpectedly if necessary.

Store your hand truck in the upright position, nose flat on the ground, and out of walkways.

Never use your hand truck for something it was not intended to be used as, like a ladder or prying device. Dont stand or climb on your hand truck.


Your hand truck is a great tool if you use it safely. Take care of your hand truck, follow these simple guidelines, and youll both be rolling for a long time.


Kirk Wheeler is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Magline, Inc. He can be reached at infor@magliner.com, or visit Magline on the web at www.magliner.com.