Handcart Ergonomics

Using manual material handling equipment such as a handcart to move a load
instead of carrying it can make the job a lot easier and safer for workers.

However, even with the added convenience there are hazards involved with
pushing, pulling, and guiding handcarts, especially if the equipment is not
used properly. These Hazards include overexertion; extremities and limbs being
caught, bumped or crushed in the cart and other objects; slips, trips, and
falls; and back, muscle, and joint strain injuries.

By lowering the amount of force that a worker has to use to push, pull or
maneuver items, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury. Therefore the
following precautions will help reduce the risk of injury associated with using

Aisle Conditions
Keep aisles clear of clutter. Ensure aisles are wide enough to allow the worker
to stand behind the cart and push, and corners can accommodate the moving cart
without stopping and starting.

Use winches for large ramps; on smaller ramps use power assists (battery
powered pushing devices). If there are multiple ramps, consider using powered
carts, or include a hand or foot brake on the cart to help the operator control
heavy loads.

Floor Condition
Keep floors in good repair and clean (free of debris, dirt, dust, liquids, or
spills). If floors are very uneven, consider using powered carts.

Use a larger diameter wheel to decrease the amount of force needed to operate.
A harder caster/tire generally reduces the amount of force required to roll,
while a wider tread generally requires greater force. Pneumatic (air filled)
wheels should not be used for heavy loads as they may "flatten", placing more
tread in contact with the floor and causing the worker to use greater force to
move the cart.

Use swivel castors on the same end of the cart as the handle. Handles on pallet
trucks should be long enough to prevent the worker's feet from being struck by
the body of the pallet truck.

Fixed horizontal handles should be at a height between 91 cm and 112 cm above
the floor. Vertical handles (usually used for narrow carts) allow a worker to
place hands at comfortable positions for their height. Handles fixed to the
cart's surface should not be more than 46 cm apart. Wider separations increase
the load on smaller shoulder muscles.

Handles should be thick enough to grip easily - 2.5 cm to 3.8 cm. Fixed handles
mounted in the horizontal direction should have a minimum length of 20 cm.

Cart size
Large carts (longer than 1.3 m and/or wider than 1 m) are difficult to
manoeuvre and should not be used in workplaces with narrow aisles. Do not
exceed the manufacturer's recommended load limits.

Operators should be trained on appropriate body positioning for the type of
cart and load being handled, and receive training on how to manoeuvre heavy

Operators should walk at an appropriate cart speed (typical walking pace of 3-4

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety