Materials Handler: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a materials handler. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

A materials handler is responsible for storing, moving, and handling hazardous or non-hazardous materials. Working as a materials handler does not require formal education, but does entail extensive on-the-job training. Hazardous materials handling positions may require completing government training and obtaining a hazardous materials handling license. Other requirements may include obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Career Hand Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
Required Education High school diploma or the equivalent and on-the-job training High school diploma or the equivalent and government training program
Licensing CDL often required Many jobs require hazardous materials handling license; CDL often required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 10% 14%
Median Salary (2013)* $23,970 $37,930

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

A hazardous and non-hazardous materials handler oversees the process of moving and distributing materials. A materials handler takes material from one location to another and may be involved in the process of extracting and loading the material to be transported. Most material handlers specialize in a specific field, such as asbestos or steel.

A materials handler has a very structured work environment to minimize safety risks. Each job is planned in detail and safety issues are addressed before a job begins. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2013 hazardous materials removal workers held 40,290 jobs and non-hazardous laborers and freight, stock, and material movers held 2.2 million jobs (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities for hazardous materials removal handlers are projected grow by 14% from 2012 to 2022, and opportunities for non-hazardous materials laborers are projected to grow by 10% during the same period. Both figures represent average growth compared to all occupations.

Duties

A materials handler identifies, transports, packs, removes, and disposes of materials. A worker must follow safety procedures and regulations, including wearing special protective gear and disposing of materials as regulated by law. A materials handler physically moves materials and uses heavy equipment to move materials.

Requirements

A materials handler does not have to have a college degree. In 2013, according to O*Net 72% of hazardous materials handlers had only a high school diploma or equivalent and 28% had some college or postsecondary training, but no degree (onetonline.org). Other job requirements include passing a physical exam, being 18 years old or older, and having a driver's license. In some cases, a commercial-class driver's license may be needed.

Employers supply all necessary training for workers either through the company or through an outside training facility. Some hazardous materials handlers may need to meet specific training standards to earn a license to handle materials like mold or asbestos. Training to qualify a worker for a license may come from the following agencies:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration

Salary

The BLS published the median annual salary earned by hazardous materials removal workers as $37,930 in May 2013. The same year, hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers earned a median of $23,970, per the BLS.

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