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How to Effectively Handle and Store Construction Materials

Do you run a construction company? If YES, here are 20 smart tips for effective material handling and storage on construction sites to minimize damage or theft.

Storing and handling materials in a construction industry is no easy business. With a lot of heavy duty and temperature sensitive materials to account for, a contractor can find himself facing some very serious challenges on how to keep the materials safe. From lumber and bricks to chemicals and glass, different materials demand various ways of storage and handling for them to maintain their usefulness.

For this reason, we are going to bring you different tips that can help you to properly store and handle the different materials in your construction site, so that you will not lose any, or jeopardize their usefulness.

20 Smart Tips for Effective Material Handling and Storage on Construction Site

  1. Be safe with the pallets

Use of pallets for loading and handling materials is extensive throughout the construction industry. You need to make sure the pallets you are using are in good condition. Cross piling and other safe loading techniques are required to keep your pallets safe.

Tie and secure any unstable loads and repack them if necessary. It is no use jeopardizing the equipment and the lives of the people using it. Make sure you find out the exact type and size of pallets will be needed for the loads you expect to receive. They must be suitable for the type of equipment you use to unload the materials.

  1. Use specialized material racks

OSHA guidelines on material handling and storage encourage employees to try “placing bound material on racks, and securing it by stacking, blocking, or interlocking to prevent it from sliding, falling, or collapsing.” In nearly the same breath, they encourage workers to separate noncompatible materials.

Taken together, these two recommendations argue for the use of multiple highly specialized material racks, built expressly for the materials in your warehouse. You wouldn’t stack bags on a sheet-glass storage unit, and your glass wouldn’t last long on a simple ground rack. The solution is to consider your materials, and choose storage racks that are built to provide support for each type of product stored in your facility.

  1. Know your weight limits

Every material has its weight limit, and it is your duty to discover it. Not doing this can lead to a lot of avoidable disasters. Never go over a storage unit’s designated weight limit, no matter the temptation.

In general, this means you should choose storage racks that are made of heavy-duty steel, with weight limits that greatly exceed the loads you plan on storing there. Ground Racks and Sheet Material Racks from BHS, for instance, have load capacities of 8,000 pounds.

  1. Choose storage area carefully

Materials can be affected by bad handling and storage. For example, timber left uncovered can get wet and make it unusable for framing. Make sure that materials are protected from the weather, stored correctly – not on bare ground or uneven surfaces – and are handled properly. Timber must be under a certain level of moisture before it can be used for flooring and framing.

Get clear title (e.g. receipts) to materials stored off-site, and have insurance coverage in case of theft or your builder going into liquidation. Cameras can play a valuable role – document problems immediately, discuss with the builder straight away and take photos in case of further issues.

Areas for storage should be chosen during the initial design stages of a project and you should ensure that they are clearly defined at the start of the project. This will prevent the areas from becoming overfilled and ensure that they remain suitable for the materials – eg a dry area for plasterboard. You should also provide good site security – such as perimeter fencing – and security staff to minimize the risk of losing materials to theft or vandalism.

  1. Don’t stack kegs, drums, or barrels directly on top of one another

This is a no-no when it comes to storing construction materials safely. Instead, always use a pallet or wooden planks between layers. This creates a stable, flat surface for upper layers to rest upon.

  1. Store similar items together

In order to ensure you make the most of your materials, you should store similar items together. You should also have a dedicated labour team available to unload and distribute materials to their point of use, as this will help prevent double handling and decrease the costs of hiring specialist staff.

Once materials have been delivered to the point of use, the contractors should confirm that they have received the materials, either manually or through an electronic system – such as tagging.

  1. When stacking lumber, keep stacks relatively short and be sure to remove embedded nails

OSHA recommends capping stacks of lumber at 16 feet high in applications where workers handle these materials manually. If you use mechanical material handling equipment to access lumber, OSHA recommends a maximum stack height of 20 feet.

Not only do nails pose hazards for workers handling used lumber, they make it impossible to safely stack this common building material. It may be time consuming, but it pays to remove all nails from lumber before placing it into storage.

  1. Block stacks of cylindrical materials, such as bar stock and lengths of conduit, at each end to prevent a collapse

Poles, steel bars, and conduit pose unique storage challenges. When placed into the wrong racks, they can easily roll over one another, prompting a dangerous avalanche of heavy materials. That’s why OSHA recommends that you block stacks of cylinders at each end, to keep them secure in their storage racks. Ground Racks from BHS include removable restraints for the greatest combination of safety and access for all types of materials

  1. Use the Right Storage Solutions

Your storage arrangements should always be designed tactfully to factor in the physical limitations and inventory schedules (what’s coming in and when, what will be used and when, etc.) specific to your jobsite.

A few things to keep in mind are:

  • Take the weather into account. Some supplies can be stored outside (set on pallets to protect them from ground moisture and covered by a roof or tarp), while others (like some power tools) need to be kept inside at all times when they’re not in use.
  • Sort materials when they arrive, prioritizing items in the order you’ll need them to provide ready accessibility.
  • Make sure you have space to sort waste by type (metal, wood, drywall, etc.) before it’s removed from the jobsite.
  • Having the correct storage solutions in place will make materials easier to manage throughout the duration of your project.
  1. Check Equipment, Tools and Machines before start of work

Before any work commences, you should always check construction equipment, tools and machines in the construction site to ensure they’re safe for use. For instance, conducting proper planning and staging before starting the day ensures that employees have the right tools and equipment they need for their work.

  1. Site Security

You must, of necessity, ensure proper security in your construction site. This will enable you keep the expensive materials you have in there safe. Restricted site access is not just about preventing equipment theft or damage. You should have security measures in place that restrict access to the work site outside of working hours to protect workers or any other person from potential construction hazards. Strict safety and security protocols must always be followed.

  1. Minimize the Distance People Need to Go to Get Materials

Every minute counts on your jobsite, which is why having materials close at hand is important. Supplies should ideally be kept as close to the installation site as possible to reduce the amount of time your crews need to spend retrieving and replacing tools and equipment. Consider keeping smaller items in dedicated, well organized containers and replenishing them from on- or off-site inventories as often as necessary.

  1. Provide Proper Training

Training is a key part of ensuring workplace safety and equipment handling in all industries. Many project managers assume that all workers are aware of the construction site safety procedures of a working site, but this is not true. Failing to provide training to workers, whether working only for a few days or months to come, is one of the contributing factors to rising cases of injuries and fatalities in construction sites. It can also lead to a lot of materials mismanagement.

  1. Promote and Enforce Good Practices

In every working environment, promoting and enforcing good practices and construction site safety procedures plays a huge role in ensuring safety for everyone. Ensure that the top management, site supervisors, and even workers are enforcing rules, observing working protocols and encouraging positive behavior.

You should also encourage your workers to be part of the construction site safety program. They can contribute by offering ideas on improving their own safety. Encourage workers to report safety concerns and risks to supervisors and project managers. The management is expected to take immediate action on any reported hazards. Most incidents can be easily avoided if someone speaks up, so remind workers to be open when they see something.

  1. Observe the rules when stacking barrels

If you want to avoid disaster when stacking your barrels, then you have to play by the rules. When stacking barrels and drums, workers should:

  • Stack drums, barrels, and kegs symmetrically.
  • Chock the bottom tiers of drums, barrels, and kegs to keep them from rolling if stored on their sides.
  • Place planks, sheets of plywood dunnage, or pallets between each tier of drums, barrels, and kegs to make a firm, flat stacking surface when stacking on end.
  1. Eliminate manual task as much as possible

Instead of manually lifting, safely use equipment where possible. Pushing, pulling and carrying can all be avoided by using conveyors, lift trucks, slides or hand trucks. Going mechanical might be expensive for your operation, but it can make thing very easier and simpler for you, and it will help you preserver your materials and manpower.

  1. Use Clear Signage

It’s important to use clear signage so that all construction site safety procedures are known, including a 24-hour emergency number and clear directions to the site office. Visible signage helps workers remember and understand safety protocols that need to be followed at all times. There should be clear signage for site amenities as well as first aid and emergency fire equipment.

  1. Keep your site in good working order

The law says you must keep every part of your construction site in ‘good order’ and every place of work clean, with your materials kept properly. The objective is to achieve what is usually called a good standard of ‘housekeeping’ across the site.

In addition, all contractors must plan, manage and monitor their work so it is carried safely and without risks to health. This includes careful planning on how the site will be kept tidy and how safety measures can be enforced. So, if you do not want to handle you materials properly, do it for the sake of the law.

  1. Use the right handling equipment

When you think about how to handle materials or place them in storage properly, think about equipment that can assist you. Whenever possible use: Trucks, Forklifts, Dollies, Carts, Wheelbarrows, Hoists, etc.

Save your back and increase job efficiency by using the right tool for the right job. When manual assistance is required at any stage in the job, ensure that there are enough workers to share the work. By improving your handling procedures your safety record will improve, and your work tools will be better for it.

  1. Move only when necessary

When handling a construction site project, you have to ensure that materials are moved only it is necessary. This is to reduce the wear and tear that can be caused to your materials from such movement. When you plan to move, ship, or receive materials consider all parts of the operation. You should ask these questions;

  • How will it be transported?
  • Are the workers experienced enough?
  • Do you have enough workers to do the job right?
  • Is the vehicle operator skilled enough for the job at hand?
  • Are the package or load sizes appropriate?

Getting the right answers to these questions would help you to keep your tools and materials safe during movement.