what is a material handler?

As a material handler, you deal with everything on the warehouse floor. At a basic level, this means processing shipments and using machinery to load products onto the shelves. You also take items down when a customer places an order, get them ready for shipping, and load them onto a truck. When your warehouse accepts a return, you process it and return it to the shelves.

Most material handlers are licensed to use equipment like forklifts, pallet trucks and stackers. You are responsible for following safety protocols, using the equipment correctly, and inspecting it to ensure it's still operable. You also perform regular maintenance tasks to avoid injuries or accidents on the warehouse floors.

If you receive a damaged shipment, you work with the office to secure a refund or replacement. You report issues like missing products or shipments that you should order. You also keep your workspace free of obstacles and debris that might be a trip hazard. At the end of your shift, you sweep, dust, straighten shelves and store equipment. In the manufacturing industry, your job is mainly to process materials, from receiving shipments to organizing the dispatch of products to storage facilities.

Would working as a material handler suit your organization and time management skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a material handler role.

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average material handler salary

According to Job Bank, material handlers earn $37,050 per year or $19 per hour. In an entry-level position, your earnings are lower since you have minimal experience. The average starting salary of a material handler is $32,311 yearly. Your salary increases significantly to over $45,048 annually with experience and industry-specific specializations, such as forklift operations.

how to increase your salary as a material handler

The wages of material handlers vary based on the region. Some regions and territories have higher hourly rates compared to others. For instance, the average salary in Saskatchewan or Alberta is higher than in Manitoba and New Brunswick. Some employers also pay according to the complexity of your duties. Additionally, those who work day shifts attract lower salaries than material handlers working nights.

Your salary also depends on your experience and skills. With experience using equipment like cranes and forklifts, you earn more due to your knowledge and expertise. Experience gives you an added advantage, thereby increasing your earning potential.

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types of material handlers

Material handlers are classified based on the materials they use. Some types of material handlers include:

  • manual material handlers: your job is to load, unload and move materials by hand in a warehouse or industrial setting. You move household appliances and furniture from the warehouse to trucks. You also perform other material handling tasks, including sorting, packing and weighing.
  • forklift operators: as a forklift operator, you move materials in a warehouse using specialized equipment for lifting and moving heavy objects. Your job is to safely unload and load cargo onto the forklift and operate it to move materials.
Man smiling driving a warehouse forklift and moving boxes.
Man smiling driving a warehouse forklift and moving boxes.

working as a material handler

Working as a material handler requires knowledge of operating multiple machines and coordinating activities to ensure the timely shipment of materials or products. If you want to become a material handler, check out the specific tasks and work environments to expect.


material handler skills and education

If you want to work as a material handler in Canada, check out some of the requirements for the role:

  • on-the-job training: some employers expect you to have a secondary school education to become a material handler. You will also undergo on-the-job training to learn the skills required for the role and familiarize yourself with the software that they use for inventory management.
  • work experience: having previous work experience in a warehouse or manufacturing environment prepares you for the role of a material handler.

competencies and characteristics of material handlers

Some of the skills for success as a material handler include:

  • communication skills: as a material handler, you constantly communicate with your team, suppliers and supervisors. Good communication skills help you relay information clearly and improve your active listening skills.
  • problem-solving skills: material handlers ensure that the production team has a constant supply of materials. Problems usually occur due to miscommunication or improper storage. You can rely on problem-solving skills to resolve issues that arise in the warehouse.
  • physical strength: as a material handler, you manually move materials and operate machines. These strenuous tasks require physical stamina and capabilities. You also need physical strength to stand for long hours.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a material handler.


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