If you’re looking for a new line of work, you’ve probably looked into a wide variety of occupations. Some that interest you probably require years of education, while others may seem a little more immediate.
Today, we’re looking at one of those positions that absolutely has training, but doesn’t require a specialized degree or certification in many cases, and anyone physically capable of doing the job can easily get hired and work the position for many years.
So, we’re looking at the material handler job description possibilities to see if this might be a good fit for you.
Material Handler Job Description – What Would You be Doing?
Material handling is a job that involved someone processing and distributing and moving materials which may be either hazardous or non-hazardous, depending on the exact job. This may sound simple, but the fine details actually make it a fairly in-depth position from the first step to the last, relocating objects from one location to another.
The process of material handling involves all of the planning and execution needed to deliver the materials safely to their destination. This is such a broad field that most handlers choose to specialize in particular types of materials that they handle, such as non-hazardous materials like steel or specialized handling of dangerous materials like asbestos.
Due to the inherent danger of this job, there is a very rigid structure to the work environment to help reduce the chances of harm coming to a material handler. Every job receives a detailed plan, so the handler knows precisely what they to do.
Other Job Titles for Material Handlers
If you have an interest in a career as a material handler, then you should be aware that there are other names for this job. To maximize your time spent job hunting, you should also watch out for jobs that mention the names:
- Senior material hander
- Material handler -- OSHA forklift certification required
- Warehouse associate
While all of these titles might not all have the exact same responsibilities, there is enough overlap that interested candidates should look at the job listings to see if they align with their particular area of interest and/or experience.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Material Handler
Due to the type of work that a material handler does, there’s a wide range of responsibilities. Depending on the type of materials worked with, and how hazardous they may be, the responsibilities can change on a daily basis.
There are certain basic tasks that are expected of every material handler, however, no matter where they work, and no matter what kinds of materials they work with. For example, all material handler job descriptions not working with hazardous materials will include things like delivering production materials and supplies, pulling orders from the inventory, and staging the finished product.
Other tasks that are common to material handlers include:
- Keeping and maintaining an inventory by labeling, identifying, and putting materials in stock.
- Periodically going back through the inventory to pull material and supplies to verify that everything in stock is correct.
- Keeping a full database of the locations of all items.
- Whenever items are going to be shipped out, making sure things are finished in time to be shipped out. This includes things like pulling, packing, crating, loading, and then securing the product.
- Maintain accurate documents and records over everything that has been shipped.
- Making sure the equipment that sees daily use has inspections done regularly and gets repaired as needed.
- Throughout the day, be ready to load and unload a variety of materials from trucks and vans using the necessary equipment.
- Be familiar with and be able to use common tools such as clamp trunk, manual jack, lift truck and dollies.
- Having a working knowledge of how to operate trailer restraints, overhead doors, banding, dock plates, and wrapping equipment.
- Know how to properly use computerized scales for counting and weighing goods.
- Help with housekeeping duties to maintain a clean and orderly working environment.
- Be flexible and ready for any random task your supervisor may need you to do.
- Know the proper procedures for dealing with any hazardous or otherwise dangerous materials being handled. This may mean having special certifications or licenses earned and maintained according to legal standards.
Skills Recommended for Material Handlers
Material handler job descriptions will list a wide range of skills that you’ll need to properly fulfill the position. Some of those skills will include:
- Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed
- Organization skills
- Scheduling skills
- Safety management
- Inventory control
- Heavy lifting as necessary
- Data entry skills
- Analyzing information
- Dealing with complexity in instructions, paperwork, and other details
- Time management skills
- Process improvement capabilities
Qualifications for Material Handlers
Additional qualifications for material handlers will also involve a wide range of items, including most of, if not all of, the following, for every position as a materials handler:
- 18 years of age or older
- A valid driver’s license
- The ability to lift loads between 60 and 100 pounds
- Current and valid OSHA forklift operation certificate
- The ability to work some weekends, holidays, and evenings or early morning shifts
- At least one year’s experience in inventory management
- A strong attention to detail
- The ability to quickly and accurately operate a handheld scanner to find materials
- The ability to read and understand shipping manifests and related documents
- Strong English oral and written communication skills
- Strong mathematics skills
- Typing and computer skills, including Microsoft Office Suite, Outlook, and other programs related to the work you’ll be doing
- The ability to run various types of propane or electric powered forklifts and/or clamp trucks
Education and Training for Material Handlers
While nearly any job is benefited by having a higher education degree, it’s a rare material handler job description that would list a bachelors’ degree as a requirement. Instead, a high diploma or equivalent should suffice, as long as you’re able to pass a few other training issues and exams.
You’ll be required to pass a physical exam to ensure that you’re physically capable of doing such a rigorous job.
You’ll also be required to pass basic mathematics exams to ensure you’re capable of quickly calculating and examining the manifests and shipping documents.
For some materials handler positions, a valid commercial driver’s license may be required, though in-warehouse positions are unlikely to require this.
Generally speaking, employers will provide the specific training they require their workers to have for their materials handling positions. This will either be done in-house or through an outside training facility that has proper certifications for training things like hazardous materials handling. Anyone who works with mold or asbestos will need such a certification.
You may receive licenses or training from any of the following agencies to qualify for such positions:
- U.S. Environment Protection Agency – EPA
- U.S. Department of Energy
- Mine Safety and Health Administration
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Many companies may also require a minimum of two to three years working in warehouses or factories, doing similar work.
Because material handling is such a rigorous job, you’ll need to not only meet the basic physical health exam but specifically be able to do the following:
- Have full range of motion in all joints
- Have full motor skills in body parts
- Have the ability to stand for several hours at a time
- Have the ability to walk for an entire shift
- Have the ability to lift up to 100 pounds repeatedly throughout a single workday
Work Environment for Material Handlers
Often, material handlers work in warehouses and manufacturing plants from where they will move the products and materials to other locations. As they work in these locations, they may find themselves searching for specific materials on shelves in storage, wrapping materials, and loading them onto delivery trucks.
Material handlers may also find themselves removing materials from trucks and putting them into proper organizational storage and shelves. They also keep production areas fully stocked, and have products they need for fulfilling orders ready to move quickly when orders come in.
Material handlers on their feet all day, and often work long shifts. They must also be fairly strong so that they’re able to lift and move boxes onto and off of shelves all day.
Salary of a Material Handler
The average salary for a material handler is $34,166 per year in the United States. The high end for material handlers is around $45,000, and the low end of the scale is $26,000. It can be assumed that those positions which require heftier certifications and more hazard on the worksite will be higher paid positions.
Finding Your Ideal Material Handler Position
If you’re up to the task, the job of handling materials can be a challenging, physically demanding, but interesting position for anyone willing to put in the labor hours and get the proper certifications. The position does not require more than a high school diploma, and usually can be more easily attained than other positions that are less labor-intensive.
If you like working hard and tend to be very focused, you’re likely to find fulfillment in the position of a material handler.