Moving from manual handling to machine aided handling in pharma & chemical

Ergonomic material handling does not only result in less work-related injuries and improved health & safety amongst the workers, but it can also increase overall productivity and efficiency. Safe material handling is essential in the pharmaceutical and chemical context as well as meeting the needs of cleanroom and ATEX areas.

First of all, why do we talk about pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing together? Even though the manufacturing environments differ greatly, with pharma being extremely clean and sanitary while the chemical environment is often rough and dirty, the material handling problems are often very similar.

One of the most frequent ergonomic problems in pharma and chemical manufacturing is manual handling of loads.

In a study of 231 workers in the chemical sector, the results showed that among the most noted ergonomic risks were manual handling of loads, forced postures and repetitive movements. The main ergonomic recommendation for manual handling of loads is to try to avoid it whenever possible and to use mechanical aids for handling and transporting loads

Examples of common manual handling problems in pharma and chemical industries include:

  • Loading and emptying of bags
  • Lifting and transport of drums & barrels
  • Handling and transportation of containers and rolls

Man lifting heavy sacks


If problems in manual handling are detected at your workplace, ergonomics propose different solutions to reduce or eliminate the effects on the workers, one of the key solutions are assisted lifting devices.

Productive benefits of ergonomic material handling

Using machine aided handling generally results in less work-related injuries and better health amongst the employees. Another beneficial effect of improved ergonomics is that by enhancing the design of the work environment, it can also generate increased efficiency and productivity.

Main productive benefits of ergonomic material handling:

  • Decrease in accidents and injuries
  • Optimization of methods and times
  • Increased productivity 
  • Quality improvement (error reduction)
  • Cost reduction
  • Benefits for the worker including improved health and quality of life
  • Increased motivation and concentration

Assisted lifting devices usually require assistance or accompaniment of the worker to guide the load from origin to destination. Some lifting aids can be fully integrated to the structure of the work environment (for example vacuum lifters, hoists) while some can be portable or mobile (for example trolleys, mobile cranes).

Man lifting drums with lifting aids

In the pharma and chemical context the central element is about material handling and doing it in a safe way. Loads must be moved or handled with caution, while keeping the pace. Another important factor to consider is of course the need of ATEX and stainless steel systems that can comply with sanitary regulations. So, what solutions are available?

Choosing lifting systems

One of the most important steps in choosing the optimal lifting equipment to solve challenges and minimize manual handling, is ensuring that the equipment is well suited for what needs to be lifted or transported.

For example, lifting systems are generally selected and customized for lifting a specific load, such as sacks, cans or barrels of chemicals – all of which require different tools and components.

TAWI lifting solutions

TAWI is a Swedish company developing customized lifting solutions for industries worldwide. With a strong focus on streamlining operations and improving worker safety and ergonomics, we have developed several lifting aids suitable for the pharma and chemical manufacturing processes.

Our systems are easily integrated in your workflow, with user-friendly lifters requiring little maintenance. Our solutions are the first step from a fully manual handling position onto the journey of automation – a quick and cost-efficient step.

When loads weigh more than 20kg or the object is very long, bulky or difficult to grasp, such as sacks and drums, it is often two people helping to lift and transport the load. Using ergonomic lifting equipment such as vacuum lifters or trolleys, these lifts can easily be handled by one single person.

Drums can be lifted, moved, and turned or tilted as far as needed, without any physical strain on processing staff. One worker can easily move heavy and ungainly sacks, lift them without physical effort, and empty the contents into a mixer in a safe and ergonomic manner. If everyone in your workforce can lift and move heavy drums or sacks by themselves, your flexibility increases while also reducing the risk of downtime.

We commonly customize solutions for very specific processes, to make sure that you are equipped with the best tool to optimize your performance, without compromising on safety requirements.

Lifting solutions for cleanrooms

Cleanrooms are commonly used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, life sciences, biotechnology and other industries that are sensitive to environmental contamination. To keep these facilities clean, staff enter the cleanrooms through airlocks and must wear protective clothing while working in the cleanroom. All equipment used in a cleanroom must be designed to generate minimal contamination and be very easy to clean.

Finding efficient lifting equipment suitable for use in cleanroom environment can be challenging. Not only do you expect the equipment to fulfil cleanroom requirements, you also want it to meet your specific needs when it comes to lifting capacity, usability and ergonomics.

TAWI provides a wide selection of possible lifting solutions and tools specifically designed for use in cleanrooms, including:

  • Stainless steel systems (such as vacuum lifters, crane systems & trolleys)
  • Washdown equipment specifically designed for easy cleaning
  • IP65 rated lifting trolleys
  • Custom made solutions on request

Lifting solutions for ATEX areas

Hazardous workplaces where flammable or combustible substances are stored or used are found in a wide range of industries, from chemical and pharmaceutical operations to milk drying and sugar refinement. Hazardous work environments are classified in terms of zones, according to the frequency and duration of the occurrence of explosive atmospheres.

When lifting or moving materials in hazardous environments, safety is essential. The risk of explosion or combustion endangers not just your operations, but your employees as well.

It is vital that each and every component of a lifting system be approved for explosive environments and to carefully plan both the selection and placement of lifting equipment that will be used in hazardous work areas. Read more about ATEX certified lifting solutions here.

To meet the various needs for lifting aids in explosive atmospheres TAWI offers an extensive range of ATEX certified, hazardous environment solutions, including;  vacuum lifters, overhead crane systems and jib cranes, and lifting trolleys.

Our solutions cover:

  • Zones 1 and 2 (gas hazardous environments)
  • Zones 21 and 22 (dust hazardous environments)

All TAWI sales representatives have been trained on ATEX regulations and have a thorough understanding of the implications of installing equipment in ATEX restricted facilities.

Want to learn more?

Our TAWI specialist are happy to help with a specific solution to meet your needs – whatever your environment require. Contact us for a free consultation.

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