How to Safely Move and Store Plasterboard On-sITE
We look at how to safely move and Store plasterboard to reduce the risk of injury.
Understanding the best way to safely move and store plasterboard can help prevent accidents and reduce the number of work-related injuries, such as MSDs, associated with its handling.
Plasterboard (drywall) is one of the most common materials found on construction sites – both commercial and residential . Its unwieldy dimensions and weight make it awkward to handle – often leading to strains and injuries.
Risks of injury and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
The construction industry has one of the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders1– well above average when compared to most other industries. Recent research carried out by Loughborough University showed that in 2019 about 42,000 UK construction workers were suffering from MSDs – approximately twice that of other industries.
Indeed, according to the Health and Safety Executive between 2020/2021, 470,00 workers were suffering from both new or longstanding MSDs. The rate of MSDs per 100,000 workers is significantly higher within construction when compared to the average for other industries – 1,830 cases per 100,000, compared to an overall average across all industries of 1,130 cases per 100,000.
1Musculoskeletel disorders are conditions that impact muscles, bones and joints, causing varying levels of discomfort and can interfere with everyday activities.
In addition to the impact on construction workers’ health and ability to undertake everyday activities, there is the knock affect financially for construction employers. According to Iain Mcllwee, FIS, Chief Executive;
“Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) cost construction employers £646 million a year and is one of the most common causes of sickness absence and productivity loss at work.”
Iain Mcllwee, CEO, FIS
HOW TO MITIGATE THE RISK OF INJURY WHEN HANDLING PLASTERBOARD
MSDs are often caused through activities or tasks that are repeated regularly in manner that can lead to on-going injuries and potential long-term damage to the body. Regular lifting and incorrect handling of heavy, awkward materials such as plasterboard can cause injuries such as long-term back issues and shoulder pain.
So, how do you reduce the risk of injury? Engaging in best practice recommendations when lifting, moving, handling, and storing plasterboard will help you mitigate some of the risks that can occur when dealing with heavy and awkward material.
CARRY OUT A RISK ASSESSMENT AT EVERY STAGE
When you are dealing with an upcoming delivery of plasterboard ensure you undertake a risk assessment and site safety check prior to the material arriving on-site. Identifying potential hazards and obstacles can reduce risks and help you plan for safe moving, handling, and storage. For example;
- Site lighting – is the site well lit so activities can be undertaken safely.
- Are there any potential trip hazards or obstacles.
- Is the site housekeeping in good order?
- Do you know the size and weight of the plasterboard being delivered?
- Does the site have good access for the delivery and moving of material, or is access challenging?
- Do you have enough labour available to safely lift and handle the plasterboard?
- Has your workforce had the appropriate training – such as manual handling?
Planning ahead enables you to think about the potential risks that may arise in advance, and identify ways of reducing those risks. For example:
- Plan for the delivery :
- How accessible is the site, have you set up delivery so that it co-ordinates with the installation schedule?
- Have you liaised with your suppliers regarding delivery and offloading options?
- Have you asked that the manufactures / suppliers label the pallets or sheets with the correct weight so a dynamic risk assessment can be carried out if required?
- How accessible is the site – are their any potential obstacles that may impede delivery and offloading. For example if the site is particularly small with narrow access – does the supplier / manufacturer need to cut the plasterboard to a bespoke size to make it more manageable?
2. Plan for moving and handling:
- How do you plan to move the material from offloading to the storage area?
- Will you be moving the plasterboard horizontally or vertically?
- What equipment will you need to have ready to help transport the plasterboard – for example hoists, pallet trucks, board trolleys etc?
- Do you have an accessible route planned both externally and internally so that the plasterboard can be moved safely and efficiently on site?
- Are you able to eliminate potential obstacles such as steps or scaffolding?
3. Plan for storage:
- Where will you store the plasterboard?
- Does the space allow you to use manual aids to help with lifting and handling?
- Is the storage area watertight ?
- Is the storage area safe for workers?
TRAINING – manual handling
Ensuring everyone on the team has undertaken Manual Handling training is essential in helping reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Poor handling of materials such as plasterboard often results in MSDs.
Manual handling training, alongside planning and best practice, can help reduce the risks associated with moving and handling materials.
If the job entails the lifting, moving and handling of plasterboard then tailored manual handling training should also be undertaken. For example;
- Training in horizontal and vertical handling of plasterboard.
- Train for handling and lifting as as a team as well as the individual. Team handling can significantly reduce the physical strain put on individuals.
MINIMIZE AMOUNT OF MANUAL HANDLING
Minimise the amount of manual handling where possible, with the use of equipment. When used correctly handling aids such as hoists, plasterboard lifters, and trolleys can significantly reduce the risk of strain and injury.
If you are introducing handling aids, ensure that everyone has been properly trained on how to use them correctly.
Ensure that the storage areas is watertight, clear of hazards, and is big enough for safe access and handling (ideally both manual and mechanical).
Improperly stacked plasterboard is a potential safety risk. Vertically storing plasterboard against a wall isn’t recommended as it poses a hazard. And, if you are stacking plasterboard horizontally against a wall, then FIS recommends that it should be limited to six boards that are strapped back to the structure, and that the wall is able to accommodate the weight of the load.
This article only touches upon how to safely move and store plasterboard. The FINISHES AND INTERIORS SECTOR (FIS) has a downloadable Best Practice Guide ‘ Recommendations for the Safe Ingress of Plasterboard’ that provides a detailed, thorough guide to best practice for lifting, moving and handling plasterboard. Including a helpful checklist – FIS BEST PRACTICE GUIDE
PRODUCTS to help safely move and store plasterboard
Levpano Plasterboard Lifters LEVPC and LEVP2: The Levpano plasterboard lifters have been primarily designed for the easy installation of lifting plasterboard or drywall products into position ready to fix at the desired height and angle required.
Armorgard Loadall Trolley with Restraint Brackets: Excellent for moving plasterboard around site. Robust, swivelling wheels make light work of manoeuvring a fully loaded trolley – even through doorways and round corners. This version comes with a horizontal back support and top clams, adding extra support and security when moving materials.
Armorgard Loadall Trolley: Helps transport plasterboard around site. Folds for compact storage
Armorgard Panel Trolley: Used to facilitate the movement of awkward sheet materials such as drywall on site. Wooden slats help protect the surface from any damage such as scratches as well as providing extra support horizontally.
Armorgard Panel Trolley – Foldable and Stackable: The unique space-saving trolley for transporting large sheets of plasterboard. Save space, and protect your materials from damage.
Board Trolley / Transit Bench: Use the Sheet Cart to transport plasterboard on-site. It also doubles up as works well as work surface for cutting plasterboard.
LONG PALLET TRUCKS
3M Long Pallet Truck: Heavy duty hand pallet trucks with extra long forks are designed to handle two standard pallets simultaneously or for special extra long pallets. Ideal for pallets of plasterboard and other sheet materials.