Improper handling of drums and barrels can result in severe injuries. These include painful back sprains, smashed toes and fingers, or exposure to hazardous chemicals if the contents are leaking. Proper work practices can minimize your risk of injury, so consider the following tips.
- Prior to handling the drum, read the label on the drum and look for symbols, words or other marks which indicate if its contents are hazardous, corrosive, toxic or flammable. If the drum isn’t labeled, consider the contents hazardous until they are positively identified.
- Look around the drum to see if it is leaking. Before cleaning up any spill, make sure the substance has been identified. Make sure that you’ve been trained in the hazards of the chemical, and have the correct materials for cleaning it up. Find and review the appropriate MSDS.
- Before moving the drum or barrel, replace missing bungs and/or lids and secure as necessary.
- Depending upon the contents of the drum, estimate its weight. Determine whether you can move it yourself or if you need assistance. A 55-gallon drum can weigh 400-800 pounds.
- If you decide to move it yourself, use a forklift if one is available, a hand truck or a drum cart that is designed specifically for drum handling.
- If the drum can be rolled, stand in front of it and place both hands on the far side of the chime. Pull the drum forward until it balances on the bottom chime. You can now roll the drum on its chime, being careful to keep your hands from crossing over one another. You can also lower the drum to the ground for rolling by shifting your hands to the bottom side of the chime (not where they will be crushed). Then slowly lower the drum to the floor. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees. Then roll the drum with both hands. Don’t use your feet or grasp the ends.
- To upend a barrel or drum, a drum lifter bar is preferable. If one is not available, crouch in front of the drum, knees apart and firmly grasp the chime on each side. Keep your back straight and use your leg muscles to lift. Balance the drum on the lower chime, shift your hands to the far edge, and ease the drum into the upended position.
- Protect your hands, feet, back and face during this work. Safety shoes should be required when moving heavy drums. Gloves, eye protection, aprons, and other personal protective equipment may be needed, depending upon the contents of the drum.
Most importantly, use material handling equipment whenever possible, and get help when you need it!