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One way of avoiding moving items is to use a conveyor belt or chutes. These can move loads of various sizes, horizontal or vertically and they avoid unnecessary handling. A chute only works downwards and can be ideal to move items to another point of the building without any handling.

Conveyors can go round corners and some are able to be moved so they can be put exactly where required. There are many different types of a conveyor, some are a series of rollers and others are powered by motors.

When using conveyors they have to be well maintained and used correctly. Guards should be left in place, to ensure you do not get clothing or fingers trapped in the conveyor.

Many industries use conveyor systems to transport raw materials and products through the stages of a process. It is often efficient to create workstations along the way where the worker uses the conveyor.

A worker might pick parts or materials from the moving belt, or the belt might deliver a product to a buffer area next to the workstation and then stop until the person activates it again. Once a worker has completed their stage of the process, they might put the product back on the conveyor.

Conveyor systems can improve efficiency and help to reduce repetitive lifting and carrying, which are causes of MSDs. But unless workstations associated with conveyors are properly designed, with the tasks and the users in mind, work may be done less efficiently and workers may be at increased risk of developing MSDs.

In assessing the risks and designing workstations, to minimise risks, take account of important circumstances including:

  • The height and build of people liable to work at the conveyor
  • The type of operations to be performed at the workstation
  • What work objects are involved, including size, shape, weight, variety and amount
  • Whether those operations can be done sitting