Manual Material Handling

Manual material handling (MMH) is the most common cause of occupational fatigue and lower back pain. MMH includes any tasks that require a person to lift, lower, push, pull, hold or carry any object or material.

Be aware that handling hazardous material (asbestos, chemicals, etc.) will have requirements listed in other sections of the OHS Act and regulations.
As an employer, you must:

  • Ensure that materials, machines or equipment are stored and located so they do not create a hazard to an employee.
  • Provide the necessary equipment to the employee for lifting and moving an object or material, and ensure the equipment is used by the employee.
  • Instruct employees on the appropriate method of lifting and moving objects and material, including how to use the equipment provided.

Handling Heavy Objects

Handling and moving heavy objects requires special precautions.  As the employer, you must ensure employees handling heavy objects:

  • Have and use chocks and ropes or other tackle to control the motion of the object.
  • Have and use bars or sledges to change the direction of moving rollers.
  • Do not stand on the downward side of an incline when moving  heavy objects.

The guideline Developing a Code of Practice for Manual Handling can be used to develop safe practices and prevent injuries related to manual material handling. Key steps in preventing injuries from manual material handling include:

  • Identifying high-risk manual handling tasks that involve heavy physical exertion, have a high score on the discomfort survey, or have resulted in a musculoskeletal injury in the past.
  • Assessing the tasks using the checklist. Consider the following risk factors:
    • Forceful exertion (weight of objects, pushing/pulling force, carrying distance)
    • Awkward posture (angle of body joints, workstation dimensions, working height)
    • Repetitive motion (number of repetition, duration, production rate)
  • Identifying solutions  to reduce or eliminate the risk factors.
  • Regularly evaluating  the tasks being performed, including investigating reported incidents due to manual handling and following up on employee concerns.

Consider solutions such as:

  • Changing the design of the job itself (work and rest schedules, job rotation, production rate).
  • The object being handled (weight, size, shape, handle).
  • The workstation (dimensions, layout, adjustability).
  • Providing mechanical aid.
  • Lifting, using employee teams.
  • Employee education, such as:
    • Understanding the principles of body mechanics
    • Recognizing high-risk tasks
    • Reporting symptoms and incidents early so that necessary action can be taken
    • Performing warm-up  stretches and exercises

Any one solution may not eliminate all the risks of injury. Choose the solution that best applies to your situation and use it as a starting point to improve your work environment.

General Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act
N.B. Reg. 91-191


Section 2

2. In this Regulation

"ACGIH" means the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists;

"Act" means the Occupational Health and Safety Act ;

"adequate" means sufficient to protect a person from the risk of injury or damage to health;

"aerial device" means any vehicle-mounted telescoping or articulating device that is used to position a person by means of a bucket, basket, ladder or platform directly secured to the boom;

"air contaminant" means any gas, fume, smoke, vapour, dust or other airborne concentration of a substance that may be hazardous to the health or safety of a person;

"anchor point" means the part of a permanent or temporary structure or of a component attached to such a structure to which fall-protection components are connected or suspended equipment components are connected;

"angle of repose" means the angle with the horizontal at which material will no longer flow freely;

"ANSI" means the American National Standards Institute;

"arboricultural operation" means work connected with the care and maintenance of trees and includes pruning and tree removal;

"ASHRAE" means the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.;

"ASME" means the American Society of Mechanical Engineers;

"blaster" means a person who holds a valid certificate of qualification in the blaster occupation or powderman trade issued under the Apprenticeship and Occupational Certification Act;

"blasting area" means an area within a 50 m radius extending from a place where explosives are being prepared, handled or loaded or from a place where an unexploded charge is known or believed to exist;

"blasting operation" means an operation using explosives and extends from the time explosives arrive at a place of employment to the time all explosives are used or removed from the place of employment;

"body belt" means a body support device that encircles the body at the waist and is also known as a safety belt;

"CGA" means the Compressed Gas Association, Inc.;

"CGSB" means the Canadian General Standards Board;

"competent" means

(a) qualified, because of such factors as knowledge, training and experience, to do assigned work in a manner that will ensure the health and safety of persons,

(b) knowledgeable about the provisions of the Act and the regulations that apply to the assigned work, and

(c) knowledgeable about potential or actual danger to health or safety connected with the assigned work;

"control zone" means the area between an unguarded edge and a warning line which represents a safe distance from the edge;

"CSA" means the Canadian Standards Association;

"danger area" means twice the distance at which there exists a possibility of hazard to a person or property from the effects of a blast;

"dB" means peak sound pressure level in decibels referenced to twenty micropascals;

"dBA" means the sound pressure level in decibels referenced to twenty micropascals measured on the A scale of a sound level meter;

"de-energized" means isolated and grounded;

"energy absorber" means a component of a fall-arresting system that dissipates kinetic energy by creating or extending the deceleration distance;

"energy absorbing lanyard" means the integral assembly of a lanyard and an energy absorber;

"engineer" means a person who

(a) is registered as a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick as entitled to engage in the practice of engineering,

(b) has received a licence from the Executive Council of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick to engage in engineering, or

(c) is practising as a professional engineer in New Brunswick under subsection 10(7) of the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act;

"explosive" means a substance that is made, manufactured or used to produce an explosion or detonation and includes black powder, propellant powders, blasting agents, dynamite, detonating cord, slurry, watergel and detonators;

"fall-arrester" means a mechanical fall-arrest device that is attached to a life line or rail and locks itself immediately in the event of a fall;

"fall-arresting system" means a permanent or temporary assembly of fall-protection components designed to arrest the fall of one or more employees;

"fall-protection system" means a guardrail, a travel restraint system, a fall-arresting system, a fall restricting system, that is either a personal fall restricting system or a collective fall restricting system that was designed to

(a) prevent or eliminate the risk of falling,

(b) restrain an employee who is at risk of falling, or

(c) stop an employee who has fallen;

"fall restricting system" means a combination of a work positioning system and fall restricting equipment;

"felling" means any part of an operation that severs a tree from its stump and brings it to a horizontal position on the ground or a bed;

"firefighter" means an employee who provides fire protection services to the public from a fire department within a local government or local service district, and includes an industrial firefighter;

"free fall" means the vertical distance between the onset of a fall to the point where the fall-arresting system begins to apply force to arrest the fall;

"full body harness" means a body-holding device that is designed to transfer to an employee's torso and upper legs the forces experienced during and after the arrest of a fall, and that depending on the classification of the device, a full body harness may also be designed for travel restraint, work positioning or suspension in addition to fall-arrest;

"guardrail" means an assembly of components joined together to form a barrier that is designed to prevent an employee from falling off the edge of a surface, but excludes a permanent guardrail system;

"hazardous substance" means a substance that may, because of its harmful nature, cause injury or damage to the health or safety of a person exposed to it;

"hoisting apparatus" means mobile cranes, tower cranes, electric overhead travelling cranes, vehicle hoists, winches, and other similar equipment, but does not include elevators, dumbwaiters, or mine hoists;

"individual fall-arresting system" Repealed. [N.B. Reg. 2010-159, s. 1]

"horizontal life line" means a rope made of synthetic fibre or wire, a rail or other similar device that is attached horizontally to a minimum of two anchor points, and to which a fall-arresting system or travel restraint system may be attached;

"industrial firefighter" means an employee who works at an industrial or commercial place of employment and who is designated by his or her employer to fight fires at that place of employment;

"industrial lift truck" means a self-propelled vehicle used to carry, lift, stack, tier, push or pull material;

"lanyard" means a flexible line used to attach a full body harness or body belt to an energy absorber, a vertical life line, a horizontal life line or an anchor point;

"life line" means a manila rope with a minimum diameter of 19 mm or a rope or strap of equivalent strength;

"lock out" means to render a machine or electrical equipment inoperative and prevent it from being activated by using a locking device to isolate the energy source from the machine or equipment;

"logging operation" means work connected with the harvesting of trees and includes the felling and transportation of trees;

"manufacturer's rated capacity" means the maximum capacity, speed, load, depth of operation or working pressure recommended in the manufacturer's specifications for the operation of a machine under the circumstances prevailing at the time of operation;

"manufacturer's specifications" means the written instructions or recommendations of a manufacturer of a machine, materials, tools or equipment that outline the manner in which the machine, materials, tools or equipment is to be erected, installed, assembled, started, operated, used, handled, stored, stopped, adjusted, maintained, repaired or dismantled and includes an instruction, operating or maintenance manual and drawings;

"owner of a tool" means a person who has purchased, rented or otherwise obtained a tool and has the tool for use at a place of employment;

"personal fall-protection system" means the components of a fall-protection system for which the employee is responsible and includes a full body harness, a body belt, an energy absorbing lanyard, a fall-arrester, a self-retracting device and the connecting hardware;

"portable compressed gas container" means any container having a water capacity of 450 kg or less that contains or is intended to contain a compressed or liquefied gas;

"portable power-operated hand tool" means a tool held with one or both hands and powered by a hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical or chemical energy source;

"powder actuated tool" means a tool that, by means of an explosive force, propels or discharges a fastening device for the purpose of impinging it on, affixing it to or causing it to penetrate another object or material;

"powderman" repealed; [N.B. Reg. 93-8, s. 1]

"powered mobile equipment" means self-propelled off-highway equipment used for construction, mining, agriculture, forestry and other purposes and includes front-end loaders, dozers, backhoes, excavators, skidders, forwarders, tree-harvesters, scrapers, compactors, rollers, graders, agricultural tractors and industrial tractors, but does not include industrial lift trucks or mobile cranes;

"pressure" means gauge pressure in kilopascals;

"SAE" means the Society of Automotive Engineers;

"safeguard" means a guard, shield, guardrail, fence, gate, barrier, safety net, wire mesh or other protective enclosure, handrail or other similar device designed to protect the safety of a person, but does not include protective equipment;

"safety monitor" means a competent person designated to monitor weatherproofing activities in a control zone to ensure that work is done in a manner that minimizes the potential for an employee to fall;

"service stairway" means a stairway used for access for purposes of maintenance and repair and not used as part of a travelway;

"silviculture operation" means the development and care of trees and includes site preparation, planting, thinning and harvesting;

"structural fire-fighting" means the activities of rescue, fire suppression and conservation of property from fires involving buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, aircraft or other large objects;

"swing staging" means a platform supported at the ends by hangers or stirrups and slings and suspended by ropes attached to hooks or thrust- outs which are attached to fixed supports;

"suspended equipment" means any permanently installed or temporary fixed suspended work platform, swing staging, boatswain's chair or other similar device suspended by support lines or other means, designed to carry employees for the purpose of gaining access to exterior and interior building surfaces and other structures;

"threshold limit value" means

(a) except with respect to lead sulfide and formaldehyde, a threshold limit value adopted by the ACGIH and set out in the ACGIH publication entitled "1997 Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices", and

(b) with respect to lead sulfide, a threshold limit value adopted by the ACGIH for lead sulfide set out in the ACGIH publication entitled "1991-1992 Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices", and

(c) with respect to formaldehyde, the threshold limit value set out in section 23.1;

"tool" includes a hand tool, a portable power-operated hand tool and a powder actuated tool;

"travel restraint system" means an assembly of components designed to prevent an employee from reaching an unguarded edge or an opening;

"underground mine" means an underground mine as defined in the Underground Mine Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act;

"vertical life line" means a flexible line or rope made of synthetic fibre or wire or a rail attached to an anchor point to which a fall-arrester is attached;

"warning line" means a supported raised line marking the edge of a control zone;

"weatherproofing" means the application of tar, asphalt, gravel, insulation, shingles or membrane material to a roof but does not include the installation of decking material or the stripping of materials from the roof;

"work platform" Repealed. [N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 1]

"work positioning system" means a system designed to provide a means of support for an employee at a desired height that allows an employee to have his or her hands free to perform a task;

"zero energy state" means, with respect to a machine, a state in which all

(a) power sources,

(b) pressurized fluids and air,

(c) potential mechanical energy,

(d) accumulators and air surge tanks,

(e) kinetic energy of machine members,

(f) loose or freely moveable machine members, and

(g) moveable material or work pieces that are supported, retained or controlled by a machine and that could move or cause the machine to move,

are acted upon to render the machine incapable of spontaneous or unexpected action by being locked out, isolated, blocked, supported, retained, controlled, drained to tank, vented to the atmosphere, reduced to atmospheric pressure or otherwise released of potential energy.

[N.B. Reg. 96-106, s. 1; 97-121, s. 1; 2001-33, s. 1; 2005-80, s. 1; 2010-159, s. 1; S.N.B. 2017, c. 20, s. 122]


Section 16

16. An employer shall ensure that materials, machines or equipment are not stored or located in a place of employment so as to create a hazard to an employee.


Section 52 General Handling of Objects and Material

52. Where the health or safety of an employee handling an object or material may be endangered, an employer shall ensure that

(a) adequate and appropriate equipment is provided to the employee and is used by the employee for lifting and moving the object or material, and

(b) the employee is instructed as to the appropriate method of lifting and moving objects and material.

Section 53 Heavy Objects

53. (1) Where a heavy object is handled on an incline, an employer shall ensure that an employee handling the object uses, and the employee handling the object shall use, chocks and ropes or other tackle to control the motion of the object, and both shall ensure that other employees do not stand on the downward side of the incline.

(2) Where a heavy object is moved by using rollers, an employer shall ensure that an employee moving the object uses, and the employee moving the object shall use, bars or sledges to change the direction of the moving rollers.