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Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Hand laborers and material movers transport objects without using machines. Some workers move freight, stock, or other materials around storage facilities; others clean vehicles; some pick up unwanted household goods; and still others pack materials for moving. Show Details


Hand laborers and material movers typically do the following:

  • Manually move material from one place to another
  • Pack or wrap material by hand
  • Keep a record of the material they move
  • Use signals to assist machine operators who are moving larger pieces of material, when necessary

In warehouses and wholesale and retail operations, hand material movers work closely with material-moving machine operators and material recording clerks. Automatic sensors and tags are increasingly being used to track items that allow these employees to work faster. Some workers are employed in manufacturing industries in which they load material onto conveyor belts or other machines.

The following are some examples of hand laborers and material movers:

Laborers and hand freight, stock, and material movers move materials to and from storage and production areas, loading docks, delivery trucks, ships, and containers. Most of these movers work in warehouses, although their specific duties vary. Some workers, called pickers, find products in storage and transport them to the loading area. Other workers load and unload cargo from a truck. Sometimes they open containers and sort the material.

Hand packers and packagers package a variety of materials by hand. They may label cartons, inspect items for defects, and record items packed. Some of these workers pack materials for shipment and transport them to a loading dock. Others work in retail as gift wrappers. Many hand packers are employed by grocery stores, where they bag groceries for customers at checkout.

Machine feeders and offbearers process materials by feeding them into equipment or by removing materials from equipment. This equipment is generally operated by other workers, such as material-moving machine operators. Machine feeders and offbearers might help the operator if the machine becomes jammed or needs minor repairs. Machine feeders track the amount of material they process during a shift.

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment clean automobiles and other vehicles, as well as storage tanks, pipelines, and related machinery. They use cleaning products, vacuums, hoses, and brushes. Most of these workers clean cars at a carwash, automobile dealership, or rental agency. Some clean industrial equipment at manufacturing firms.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors gather garbage and recyclables from homes and businesses to transport to a dump, landfill, or recycling center. Many collectors lift garbage cans by hand and empty them into their truck. Some collectors drive the garbage or recycling truck along a scheduled route. When collecting materials from a dumpster, drivers use a hydraulic lift to empty contents of the dumpster into their truck.

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Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or earth around a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto and off of container ships. Show Details


Material moving machine operators typically do the following:

  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule they receive from their superiors
  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment
  • Record the material they have moved and where they moved it from and to

In warehouse environments, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Automated sensors and tags are increasingly used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to work faster.

In warehouses, operators usually work closely with hand material movers. For more information, see the profile on hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract the ore and other mined materials.

In construction, material movers remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, material moving machine operators often help to construct high-rise buildings by transporting materials to workers far above ground level.

The following are types of material moving machine operators:

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. These trucks, often called forklifts, have a lifting mechanism and forks, which makes them useful for moving heavy and large objects. Some industrial truck and tractor operators drive tractors that pull trailers loaded with material around factories or storage areas.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors for transport elsewhere. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

Dredge operators excavate waterways. They remove sand, gravel, or rock from harbors or lakes to help prevent erosion and improve trade. Removing these materials helps maintain navigable waterways and allows larger ships to use more ports. Dredging is also used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. These workers generally work underground in mines. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. Operators extend and retract horizontal arms and lower and raise hooks attached to cables at the end of their crane or tower. Operators are usually guided by other workers on the ground using hand signals or a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some also work in iron and steel mills. 

Hoist and winch operators, also called derrick operators or hydraulic boom operators, control the movement of platforms, cables, and cages that transport workers or materials for industrial operations, such as constructing a high-rise building. Many of these operators raise platforms up far above the ground. Most work in manufacturing or construction industries. For more information about rig derrick equipment workers, see the profile on oil and gas workers.

Conveyor operators and tenders control conveyor systems that move materials on an automatic belt. They move materials to and from places such as building sites, storage areas, and vehicles.

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