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Safety When Moving Oil Drums

An oil drum is a container which is used to transport or store dangerous or hazardous goods, usually liquid or powder. They are made from steel, plastic or paperboard, the construction of the drum needs to meet the applicable regulations and is usually matched to the type of goods being stored or transported.

When you are working in a warehouse or factory environment you are probably going to have to move an oil drum at some point. So with this in mind we have put together a quick guide to keep you safe and avoid injury when moving them about.

Hazards when moving oil drums

Before you start moving the drums, it's advisable to look for any potential hazards, either within the environment or to do with the drums themselves.

Look out for;

  • Drums that are too heavy to handle manually
  • Drums that are difficult to grip
  • Drums stored in tight places
  • Untidy, slippery or rough and uneven floors
  • Poorly lit areas that could reduce visibility
  • Contents that could potentially shift
  • Dangerous or hazardous contents

Protective Clothing when moving oil drums

Using the correct clothing is imperative to making sure that injury is avoided. You should make sure you are wearing the following as a minimum:

Moving Heavy Drums

When you are moving heavy drums, its worth bearing in mind whether the drum is full or partially filled, this is because contents can shift making the drum unstable and awkward to move.

Dump Drums

When lifting and pouring heavy drums, you can use ergonomic drum handlers and forklift drum handlers which are designed to aid in emptying the containers. Some of these handlers include:

Moving Empty Drums

Dealing with empty drums, whilst lighter, still have certain things you should bear in mind when handling, such as:

  • Burred edges, lock rings, bungs and anything else which may catch your gloves or clothing which could cause injury or throw you off balance
  • When rolling a drum make sure that you have gloves on and that you are in full control, it should never roll so far away from you that you can't stop it
  • The best way to lift an empty drum is to squat and then straighten legs however if a mechanical aid is available, it is best to use that method

Mechanical Aids for moving oil drums

While there are great methods and techniques which can be taught on how to manually lift drums and containers, as previously noted, it is best to use a mechanical aid such as a forklift to help you lift, empty and store drums and containers as there is less chance of injury.


There are a number of ways you can educate your employees on proper handling of drums and containers, these range from safety courses, techniques on manual handling down to making sure everything is labelled, and the general area kept tidy and clean.

ESE Direct have a range of forklift drum attachments which are ideal for moving and emptying drums and containers. If you do have any questions about these please give our sales team a call on 0808 163 3704.

Photograph of Laura Holland

Author Bio -

Social Media and Web Content Coordinator, Jan 2014 - May 2015