Course 619 - Materials Handling Safety

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Conveyors, Housekeeping, and Storage

In this module we'll discuss material handling considerations for handling materials using conveyors, general housekeeping measures to make handling materials less hazardous and general best practices for storing materials.

Working Around Conveyors

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Is this conveyor properly locked out, preventing a possible fatality?

When using conveyors, workers may get their hands caught in nip points where the conveyor medium runs near the frame or over support members or rollers. Workers also may be struck by material falling off the conveyor, or they may get caught in the conveyor and drawn into the conveyor path as a result. To prevent or reduce the severity of an injury, employers can use engineering and administrative controls to protect workers.

Engineering controls include:

  • Install an emergency button or pull cord designed to stop the conveyor at the employee’s work station.
  • Install emergency stop cables that extend the entire length of continuously accessible conveyor belts so the cables can be accessed from any location along the conveyor.
  • Design the emergency stop switch so it must be reset before the conveyor can be restarted.
  • Provide guards where conveyors pass over work areas or aisles to keep employees from being struck by falling material. (If the crossover is low enough for workers to run into it, mark the guard with a warning sign or paint it a bright color to protect employees.)
  • Cover screw conveyors completely except at loading and discharging points. (At those points, guards must protect employees against contacting the moving screw. The guards are movable, and they must be interlocked to prevent conveyor movement when the guards are not in place.)

Administrative controls include:

  • Ensure appropriate personnel inspect the conveyor and clear the stoppage before restarting a conveyor that has stopped due to an overload.
  • Prohibit employees from riding on a materials-handling conveyor.

1. Which of the following is an example of effective engineering controls to prevent injuries while working around conveyors?

a. Ensuring proper inspection of conveyors
b. Prohibiting employees from riding conveyors
c. Installing machine guards, switches, cables and covers
d. Developing safety rules for working around conveyors


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When OSHA sees a clean work area, the know it's more likely a safe work area.

Poor housekeeping creates a disorderly workspace, which increases the risk of ergonomic and other injuries while handling, moving, and storing materials. Employees can spend less time moving materials and more time performing skilled tasks. Ultimately, poor housekeeping decreases productivity.

Uncluttered working conditions are essential to the safety of all workers and should be maintained at all times in both work and office areas. Proper housekeeping management provides for an orderly arrangement of operations, tools, equipment, storage facilities, supplies, and waste material.

Maintaining the below conditions contributes significantly to lower injury and illness rates:

  • floors free from grease and oil spillage;
  • properly identified hallways, isles, and passageways;
  • unobstructed accesses and exits;
  • neat and orderly machinery and equipment;
  • well-nested hoses and cords;
  • properly stored materials;
  • removal of excess waste material or debris from the working area;
  • walkways free from ice and snow;
  • surfaces, including elevated locations, free from accumulated dust; and
  • adequate lighting.

A little caveat: It's also important to understand that OSHA sees poor housekeeping during most of their inspections, especially on construction sites. When OSHA inspectors see poor housekeeping, they may assume that, "a messy workplace is not a safe workplace, if they're not paying attention to good housekeeping practices, they're probably not paying attention to safe work practices. The inspectors are more likely to look closely for violations in the workplace or worksite. So, it's not only smart safety, but smart business to keep the workplace clean and orderly.

See more on the benefits of good housekeeping at OSHA's Process: Housekeeping Safety Page.

2. What is an OSHA inspector likely to think when they see good housekeeping in the workplace?

a. It's nice and clean in here
b. A clean workplace is a safe workplace
c. I'll have to look hard to find violations
d. They're just trying to impress me


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Staging supplies help make work more safe and productive.

Poorly-planned staging may result in employees lifting materials from awkward locations or carrying materials longer than necessary.

Possible Solutions:

  • Ensure materials are off the floor and are placed on stands, racks, or other devices that allow the materials to be in the power zone, minimizing the need to bend or reach to access materials.
  • Ensure materials are staged within 25 to 50 feet of the point of use. This reduces walking distances, an element that affects risk factors, efficiency, and productivity.
  • Plan staging so materials and equipment can be placed in a central location so employees have good access to materials.
  • Preplan, in the bidding stage, the space and type of racking needed to store conduit and spools of wire at a central location, allowing easy access and locating materials in the power zone.

3. When staging materials, place them _____.

a. at floor level within 50 feet of the work
b. according to OSHA requirements
c. within 25-50 feet from the point of use
d. in a decentralized area away from workstations

General Storage Considerations

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Stored materials being prepared for handling.

Stored materials must not create a hazard for employees. Employers should make workers aware of such factors as the materials' height and weight, how accessible the stored materials are to the user, and the condition of the containers where the materials are being stored when stacking and piling materials. To prevent creating hazards when storing materials, employers must do the following:

  • Keep storage areas free from accumulated materials that cause tripping, fires, or explosions, or that may contribute to the harboring of rats and other pests;
  • Place stored materials inside buildings that are under construction and at least 6 feet from hoist ways, or inside floor openings and at least 10 feet away from exterior walls;
  • Separate noncompatible material; and
  • Equip employees who work on stored grain in silos, hoppers, or tanks, with lifelines and safety belts.
  • Workers should consider placing bound material on racks, and secure it by stacking, blocking, or interlocking to prevent it from sliding, falling, or collapsing.

4. In buildings under construction place stored materials _____ from hoist ways, or inside floor openings.

a. between 4 and 6 feet
b. 2 feet
c. 10 feet
d. at least 6 feet

Storing Materials in an Open Yard

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Stored materials in a lumber yard.

Storing materials in an open yard requires attention to combustible materials, access, powerlines, and fire protection.

  • Combustible Materials: Stack combustible materials securely. Stacks or piles must be no more than 16 feet high. Store combustible material at least 10 feet away from a building or structure.
  • Access: Driveways between and around combustible storage piles must be at least 15 feet wide. Keep them free from accumulations of material or rubbish. Use a map grid system of 50 by 150 feet when planning driveways in open-yard combustible material storage areas.
  • Powerlines: Do not store materials under power lines or where materials may block egress or emergency equipment.
  • Fire Protection: Provide portable fire extinguishing equipment rated 2-A:40-B:C at accessible marked locations in the yard so that the nearest extinguisher is no more than 50 feet away for a Class B hazard or 75 feet away for a Class A hazard.

5. Stacks or piles stored outside must be no more than _____ high.

a. 5 feet
b. 10 feet
c. 16 feet
d. 20 feet
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Massive indoor storage and distribution facility.

Storing Materials Indoors

Storing materials indoors requires attention to access, fire prevention and protection, floor loading, and overhead hazards. Buildings under construction require special precautions.

  • Access: Place or store materials so they do not interfere with access ways, doorways, electrical panels, fire extinguishers, or hoistways. Do not obstruct access ways or exits with accumulations of scrap or materials. Aisles must be wide enough to accommodate forklifts or firefighting equipment.
  • Fire Prevention: When storing, handling, and piling materials, consider the fire characteristics. Store noncompatible materials that may create a fire hazard at least 25 feet apart or separate them with a barrier having at least a 1-hour fire rating. Pile material to minimize internal fire spread and to provide convenient access for firefighting.
  • Fire Doors: Maintain a 24-inch clearance around the travel path of fire doors.
  • Sprinklers: Maintain at least an 18-inch clearance between stored materials and sprinkler heads.
  • Heating Appliances: Maintain at least a 3-foot clearance between stored materials and unit heaters, radiant space heaters, duct furnaces, and flues or the clearances shown on the approval agency label.
  • Fire Protection: Emergency fire equipment must be readily accessible and in good working order.
  • Floor Loading: Conspicuously post load limits in all storage areas, except for floors or slabs on grade.
  • Buildings Under Construction: Store materials inside buildings under construction at least 6 feet away from any hoistway or inside floor openings, and 10 feet away from an exterior wall that does not extend above the top of the material stored.

6. Stored materials must be kept at least _____ from overhead sprinkler heads.

a. 6 inches
b. 12 inches
c. 18 inches
d. 24 inches
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It's important to cross-key layers of bagged materials to improve stability.

Bagged Materials

Bags and bundles should be stacked in interlocking rows to remain secure. Bagged material should be stacked by stepping back the layers and cross-keying the bags at least every ten layers. To remove bags from the stack, start from the top row first.

Bulk Materials

Ensure entry to bulk storage locations, such as silos, hoppers, tanks, or bins (which are also classified as confined spaces) complies with OSHA requirements and local operating procedures.


Stack lumber on level and solidly supported sills so that the stacks are stable. Do not pile lumber more than 16 feet high.

Bricks and Masonry Blocks

Stack bricks and masonry blocks on level and solid surfaces.

  • Bricks: Stack bricks no more than 7 feet high. Step back a loose brick stack at least 2 inches for every foot of height above 4 feet. Stack packaged brick no more than three units high.
  • Masonry Blocks: Step back masonry blocks one-half block per tier above the 6-foot level.

Cement and Lime

Handling or storing cement or lime requires a job hazard analysis (JHA). Lime requires careful storage and handling procedures. Store unslaked lime in a dry area and, because it presents a fire hazard, separate it from other materials.

7. What is the requirement for stacking bagged material so that they remain secure?

a. They must be cross-keyed every ten layers
b. They must not be cross-keyed
c. Do not stack over 16 feet high
d. Step back rows 2 inches every foot
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Racks of various types of steel pipe, and materials.

Reinforcing, Sheet, and Structural Steel

  • Stack steel to prevent sliding, rolling, spreading, or falling.
  • Use lagging (sleeve) when steel is handled by a crane or forklift to aid safe rigging.

Pipe, Conduit, and Cylindrical Material

Make sure cylindrical materials are stable when storing or handling.

  • Stacking: Place pipe, conduit bar stock, and other cylindrical materials in racks or stack and block them on a firm, level surface to prevent spreading, rolling, or falling. Use either a pyramided or battened stack. Step back battened stacks at least one unit per tier and securely chock them on both sides of the stack.
  • Removal: Remove round stock (e.g., wood poles, pipe, and conduit) from a stack from the ends of the stock.
  • Unloading: Unload carriers so that employees are not exposed to the unsecured load.
  • Taglines: Use taglines when working with round stock.

Sand, Gravel, and Crushed Stone

  • Locate stockpiles to provide safe access for withdrawing material. Material or vertical faces must not overhang.
  • Store material against walls or partitions only in an amount that will not endanger the stability of the wall or partition.

8. How should pipe and conduit bar stock be stored?

a. Use only approved pallets
b. Stacked vertically and blocked
c. In racks or stacked on level surface and blocked
d. Store against walls at 45-degree angle
Proper storage of drums is necessary to prevent damage and detect leakage.

Handling and Storing Drums and Containers

Handling: Improper handling of drums and barrels can result in severe injuries. These include painful back sprains, smashed toes and fingers, or exposure to hazardous chemicals if the contents are leaking. Proper work practices can minimize your risk of injury, so consider the following best practices:

  • Prior to handling the drum, read the label on the drum and look for symbols, words or other marks which indicate if its contents are hazardous, corrosive, toxic or flammable. If the drum isn't labeled, consider the contents hazardous until they are positively identified.
  • Look around the drum to see if it is leaking. Find and review the appropriate SDS to see what the drum contains.
  • Before moving the drum or barrel, replace missing bungs and/or lids and secure as necessary.
  • Depending upon the contents of the drum, estimate its weight. Determine whether you can move it yourself or if you need assistance. A 55-gallon drum can weigh 400-800 pounds.
  • If you decide to move it yourself, use a forklift if one is available, a hand truck or a drum cart that is designed specifically for drum handling.
  • If the drum is on its side, upend a barrel or drum using a drum lifter bar. If one is not available, crouch in front of the drum, knees apart and firmly grasp the chime on each side. Keep your back straight and use your leg muscles to lift. Balance the drum on the lower chime, shift your hands to the far edge, and ease the drum into the upended position.
  • Use PPE to protect your hands, feet, back and face during this work.
  • Most importantly, use material handling equipment whenever possible, and get help when you need it!

Storage: Fifty-five-gallon drums or other similar containers should be stored in rows that are no more than two (2) 55-gallon drums high and two 55-gallon drums wide. This recommendation takes into consideration the following:

  • Inspections not only detect spills but also detect container deterioration.
  • It is difficult to inspect drums or containers when ladders are required when drums are more than two high.
  • Rows should be no more than two drums wide. Drums inside the rows are not visible. This would require containers to be moved to perform adequate inspection.
  • Variability in container strength and condition make it unwise to stack containers more than two high. This puts unnecessary strain on the supporting containers.
  • Variability in container dimensions can make stacking more than two high risky because of the uncertain support given by the different container sizes.
  • Variability in the number of drums on each pallet may also lead to instability. It is not uncommon to find only three drums on a pallet.

9. Fifty-five-gallon drums should be stored in rows that are no more than _____.

a. 3 drums high and 1 drum wide
b. 2 drums high and 2 drums wide
c. 3 drums high and 2 drums wide
d. 2 drums high and 4 drums wide
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Are these gas cylinders properly stored?

Flammable or Combustible Liquids

Indoor Storage. Do not store flammable and combustible liquids indoors, except as follows:

  • Store no more than 25 gallons in a room or single fire area.
  • Store no more than 60 gallons of Class I or II liquids, or more than 120 gallons of Class III liquids, in an approved cabinet. Locate no more than three such cabinets in a single fire area.
  • You may store larger quantities in separated indoor storage areas when such storage meets the requirements of NFPA 30, Section 4-4, "Design, Construction, and Operation of Inside Storage Areas."
  • Place at least one 2-A:40-B:C fire extinguisher 10 feet to 30 feet away from the stored material or cabinet.
  • Place at least one 2-A:40-B:C fire extinguisher outside of, but not more than 10 feet from, the door opening into an inside liquid storage area.

Outdoor Storage: Do not store flammable and combustible liquids outdoors, except as follows:

  • Above ground in approved containers with no more than 60-gallon capacity, subject to the following restrictions:
    • The total capacity of any one group of containers stored together must not exceed 1,100 gallons. Each group of containers must be at least 5 feet apart, and each group must be at least 20 feet away from any building or other combustibles.
    • Each group of containers must be adjacent to an access way at least 12 feet wide to facilitate the use of firefighting equipment.
  • Above ground in approved portable tanks with no more than 660-gallon capacity, providing that you:
    • Keep a 5-foot clear area around groups of two or more tanks with a combined capacity of more than 2,200 gallons.
    • Keep portable tanks at least 20 feet away from any building or other combustibles.
    • Equip portable storage tanks with emergency venting and other devices, as required in NFPA 30.
    • Locate each tank adjacent to an access way at least 12 feet wide to facilitate use of firefighting equipment.
  • Above ground in approved tanks installed in accordance with NFPA 30, Section 2-3, “Installation of Outside Above Ground Tanks.”
  • Dike storage areas at least 12 inches high or grade and slope them, and seal them with a 50-mil plastic compatible sheeting or equivalent liner to contain leaks and spills equal to the capacity of all tanks or containers in each area. Keep the area free from vegetation or combustible material within 10 feet of the storage area perimeter.
  • Place at least one portable fire extinguisher unit rated not less than 2-A:40-B:C 25 feet to 75 feet away from each portable tank or group of tanks or containers.

10. What is the maximum amount of flammable and combustible liquids in a room or single fire area?

a. 10 gallons
b. 15 gallons
c. 25 gallons
d. 60 gallons

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