The ability to handle construction material safely is vital to the proper functioning of any construction jobsite.

The planning and mobilization of raw material and equipment is an important aspect of completing the job on time. 

Just think about it-in the early stages of jobsite development, there are heavy equipment operators doing their best to prepare the site for further construction. Bulldozers move dirt and debris, and front-end loaders scoop up the material and load it onto dump trucks. These dump trucks transport the material to either another location on the jobsite or take the material offsite for disposal. If a trench or subfloor needs to be dug, then in comes the excavation equipment.

When the site is ready for work to continue, the transportation of construction material onsite begins. Usually, everything that goes into the construction project has to be brought to the site. Many times the only way to move this material onsite is by truck. These vehicles (loaded with concrete blocks, pipes, equipment and lumber) provide a continuous flow of raw materials and parts that are vital to the project.

Handling and storing materials involves many different activities such as hoisting steel beams, driving a truck loaded with raw material, manually carrying bags or material and stacking supplies. Employees can be injured by improperly lifting materials (manually and by machine), falling objects and improperly stacked supplies. It is critical that you make proper materials storage and handling a priority.

Not only do construction materials have to be handled safely for construction jobsite safety, debris and waste must be disposed of properly. Remember, OSHA is watching.

OSHA Construction Regulations for Material

OSHA's emphasis is protecting workers from construction jobsite hazards. While the bulk of the material and handling rules are found in 1926, Subpart H, several other requirements govern the handling, storage, use and disposal of materials. These requirements are found throughout the construction regulations.

For instance, excavation regulations require that spoil piles be kept 2 feet back from the edge of the trench (§1926.651(j)(2)). The fall protection standard states that when performing overhand bricklaying and related work , no material or equipment (except masonry and mortar) is to be stored within 4 feet of the edge of the roof (§1926.502(j)(6)(i)). Also, during roofing work, materials and equipment can't be stored within 6 feet of a roof edge, unless guardrails are erected at the edge (§1926.502(j)(7)(i)). Housekeeping standards state that debris has to be kept cleared from work areas, passageways and stairs in and around buildings or other structures (§1926.25).

Fire protection and prevention requirements have related material storage rules located at §1926.151.

You have to know, and comply with, all these regulations involving materials handling to keep the site safe.

General Requirements for Construction Materials Handling

Proper materials handling practices help prevent injury and property damage. Segregating noncompatible materials during storage goes a long way in preventing fires. For example, keep all solvent waste, oily rags and flammable liquids in fire resistant covered containers until removed from the worksite.

Also, all materials stored in tiers must be stacked, racked, blocked, interlocked or otherwise secured. Structural steel, poles, pipe, bar stock and other cylindrical materials, unless racked, must be stacked and blocked to prevent spreading or tilting. If this isn't done, the materials may slide around and could injure employees.

When working in a building, make sure you know the maximum safe load limits of floors used as storage areas within the buildings and structures. If the building is under construction, maximum safe load limits (in pounds per square foot) should be posted for floors used as storage areas. Never exceed maximum safe loads.

Keep aisles and passageways clear and in good repair to provide for the free and safe movement of material handling equipment and employees.


Build a ramp or provide a graded surface when work areas are not on the same level. This will help prevent vehicle accidents and spillage of material.

OSHA Requirement on Storing Materials

OSHA's Subpart H contains specific information on how to store various types of material inside buildings under construction and provides specific safe distance and clearance requirements. Some of these requirements are:

  • Do not place the material within 6 feet of any hoistway or inside floor openings, or within 10 feet of an exterior wall that does not extend above the top of the material stored.
  • Stack bagged materials by stepping back the layers and cross-keying the bags at least every ten bags high.
  • Do not stack brick more than 7 feet in height. When stacks of bricks reach the 4-foot height, start tapering it back 2 inches for every foot of height above the 4-foot level.
  • Masonry blocks typically stack easier than brick, but when stacking masonry blocks higher than 6 feet, taper the stack back one half block per tier above the 6-foot level.
  • For lumber stacked by machine, the piles can't exceed 20 feet in height. Lumber that is going to be handled manually can't be stacked more than 16 feet high. For all lumber storage:
    • Remove all used nails before stacking.
    • Stack lumber on level and solidly-supported sills.
    • Stack lumber so that it is stable and self-supporting.
    • Do not store excess materials on scaffolds or runways. Keep only the amount needed for immediate operations.

Disposal of Construction Material

Getting rid of waste and other used construction material can be a challenge. Don't let the waste debris pile up for days. Remove all scrap lumber, waste material, combustible scrap and rubbish from the immediate work area as the work progresses.

Disposal of materials is often done by dropping or tossing it off a building. There is a danger of this material falling and striking a worker or equipment. If dropping material more than 20 feet to any point outside the exterior walls of the building, use an enclosed chute.

When debris is dropped through holes in floors without the use of chutes, use barricades to enclose the area where the material is dropped. The barricades must be at least 42 inches high and not less than 6 feet back from the projected edge of the opening above.


Post signs warning of the hazard of falling materials at each level. Don't allow removal of the dropped material until workers are done tossing it from the higher level. This will require communication among employees on different levels.

Provide containers for the collection and separation of waste, trash, oily and used rags and other refuse. If the containers need covers make sure they have them. Finally, comply with local fire regulations when burning waste material or debris.

Proper material handling and storage helps prevent fires and protects employee from being crushed by falling or shifting debris. Following these OSHA requirements helps ensure your employees will go home safely at the end of the workday.

Construction Business Owner, June 2010