Mostly Harmless: Believe it or Not, there’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to use a Wheelbarrow
Wheelbarrows can cause serious injuries if they’re overloaded or a member of your crew decides to disregard basic safety rules
Telling somebody to be careful using a wheelbarrow might seem like telling somebody to be careful with a spoon. Unnecessary. As far as a tool for construction or landscaping goes, a wheelbarrow doesn’t seem to carry much potential for danger.
Yet wheelbarrow accidents happen constantly. The majority occur when this simple tool is overloaded and misused. A wheelbarrow makes it possible to move hundreds of pounds of material—but you’ll balance it on a single wheel, creating the potential for an accident. Follow these safety tips when using one:
- Loading: When resting, the wheelbarrow has at least three points of contact with the ground. When you move it, you’ll reduce that to just one: the wheel. So, make sure to balance the load you place in the wheelbarrow.
- Overfilling: The manufacturer doesn’t come up with an arbitrary weight limit. Wheelbarrows become unsafe and can cause serious injury if you overload them. Keep in mind that you’ll balance the weight on the wheel, so the weight of the load has the potential to pull you with it if you lose that balance. Generally, you should be able to guide the wheelbarrow safely, but remove some of the load if that’s difficult. You should be able to see over and around what you’ve loaded, as well.
- Lifting: Many injuries related to wheelbarrow operation happen because the operator tries to lift the weight incorrectly. Spare your back and give the legs their fair share of the lifting.
- Moving: There’s a lot of weight—and therefore a lot of momentum—in a full wheelbarrow load, even if it’s not overloaded. Basic wheelbarrows don’t have brakes. They’re stopped by your human actions, which means that you don’t want to try to pull a wheelbarrow. Always push it so you’re not in the way if you’re unable to stop it. One way to maintain control and have the ability to stop the wheelbarrow is to keep a slow walking pace. This will reduce the amount of times you’d otherwise have to stop.
- Obstacles: Many wheelbarrow accidents occur when it tips over because the wheel has come up against an obstacle which abruptly halts its progress. Make sure your path is clear. If you have to cross over an obstacle like a rail or raised sidewalk, do so at a right angle. Otherwise, the obstacle may divert rather than stop the wheel, causing you to lose balance and spill the load.
- Storage: Wheelbarrows tip over easily, even when empty. They can be safety hazards if not stored out of the way when they are unused.
Most wheelbarrow accidents occur because the operator loses control. The solution is usually to transport smaller loads. But construction and landscaping project deadlines have a habit of pushing safety practices to the side.
Power your way to safety
One way to increase productivity and keep your crew safe is to upgrade standard wheelbarrows to powered versions. Battery-powered wheelbarrows can drastically reduce labor hours because these workhorses can handle heavier loads. They’re also built to offer more safety. Powerful electric motors and multiple wheels—rather than a single one—allow the operator to move forward and reverse. Stopping the wheelbarrow is as simple as releasing the throttle.
You’ll find battery-powered wheelbarrows built and configured for your specific needs. Triple E has solutions ranging from models that can move up to 265 pounds, to heavy-duty versions that can be fitted with treadwheels and configured with lift dumps.
Because they have battery power, these wheelbarrows can also be fitted with attachments that’ll make them useful for other construction and landscaping projects. It’ll no longer be just the fill/move/dump tool.
Wheelbarrows are workhorses—but the downside is that they can cause serious injuries if they’re overloaded or a member of your crew decides to disregard basic safety rules. You can sidestep much of this danger by reminding your crew of basic precautions, or moving to a safer, battery-powered version.
At Triple E, we’re passionate about keeping pace with an evolving construction industry. For more information on the benefits of battery-powered construction equipment, you can call us at (954)-978-3440 or reach us through our contact form.