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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Material Handlers(7452)

This unit group includes workers who handle, move, load and unload materials by hand or by using a variety of material handling equipment. They are employed by transportation, storage and moving companies, and by a variety of manufacturing and processing companies and retail and wholesale warehouses.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read notes from co-workers about special orders. (1)
  • Read memos from supervisors with instructions for handling customer inquiries or advice on safety in the workplace. (2)
  • Read the standard operating procedures of the company. (3)
  • Refer to manuals with information on the storage and handling of dangerous goods. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Read product labels on cartons. (1)
  • Read warning and direction signs posted in the warehouse. (1)
  • Complete forms, such as weekly inventory sheets. (1)
  • Obtain information about furniture placement or drop-off locations from sketches drawn by customers. (1)
  • Read forms, such as invoices, parts order forms, packing slips and bills of lading. (2)
  • Read work schedules. (2)
  • Enter numbers and codes on loading sheets, in tabular format. (2)
  • Refer to charts, such as weight charts which indicate what weights forklifts can lift. (2)
  • Refer to road maps or industrial site maps to find delivery locations. (2)
  • Refer to assembly drawings to perform minor machine repairs or to assemble furniture pieces. (3)
  • Refer to schematic drawings, such as the air brake system for the truck. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write notes to supervisors about shortages of materials. (1)
  • Write shipping labels on crates and record codes on loading charts. (1)
  • Complete activity logs to record tasks completed during the shift and any problems which occurred. (1)
  • Write notes to themselves as reminders of tasks to be done. (1)
  • Complete forms to record reasons for not accepting a shipment and noting conditions which need to be met for acceptance. (1)
  • May write memos to supervisors to document problems, such as receiving damaged products. (2)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • May calculate invoices and accept cash, cheque or credit card payments from customers. (1)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • May schedule product shipments, considering the time required for travel and for loading and unloading. (2)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • May measure wood for crate construction. (1)
  • May convert board measure to linear feet. (2)
  • May measure the length, width and height of a truck trailer and the length, width and height of filled pallets to find out how many pallets of products can fit in the trailer. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the weight of products on pallets to decide whether they can be lifted by the forklift. (1)
  • Estimate the length of time it will take to load and unload trucks. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Talk to customers to get pickup and delivery instructions. (1)
  • Communicate with suppliers to confirm details, such as purchase order numbers. (1)
  • Interact with co-workers to co-ordinate tasks and to discuss how to move heavy objects. (1)
  • Interact with supervisors to discuss problems, such as damaged shipments or shortages in orders. (2)
  • May talk to mechanics about problems with the operation of trucks or forklifts. (2)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • May be unable to find goods which were stored by customers. They organize a search, focusing on the date of original storage and the inventory listing to pinpoint where the articles may be. (1)
  • May find that articles for delivery will not fit into stairwells or elevators. They may have to take articles apart and reassemble them in their new location. (2)
  • May be informed by a customer that an article has not been sent, even though the invoice indicates it was sent. They trace paperwork such as order forms, bills of lading and shipping records to verify that an error has been made. (2)
  • May find that deliveries leaving the warehouse are backlogged. They call customers to advise them of delays and to assess the urgency of the problem. In cases where hardship would be caused by the delay, they look at possible solutions, such as juggling other jobs or requesting that extra workers be called in. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide how to store items in the most efficient way. (2)
  • Decide how to position a load so its weight will be distributed properly. (2)
  • Decide where to position storage goods in the warehouse, based on whether the storage is for a long or short term. It is important, for instance, not to put a load being stored for six months behind a load that is being stored for three years. (2)
  • Decide whether to unload a shipment which has arrived damaged or whether to refuse the load until an investigation has been conducted. (2)
  • Decide the sequence of deliveries, based on the urgency of the orders and the distances between destinations. (3)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Material handlers receive assignments from supervisors at the beginning of each shift and plan how best to sequence tasks to meet deadlines. They may have to adjust these plans if new loads arrive from suppliers sooner than expected. Despite the need to make such adjustments, most activities are routine and follow established procedures. Some liaison with co-workers is needed to co-ordinate the movement of goods into and out of the warehouse. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember where numerous items can be found in the warehouse.
  • Remember the addresses of customers to whom there are repeat deliveries.
  • Remember for a short period of time what items were sent out, in order to respond to queries from supervisors.
  • May memorize stock numbers and prices of commonly stocked items.
Finding Information
  • Refer to customer lists and telephone directories to contact customers. (1)
  • Use maps to locate streets where loads are to be delivered. (1)
  • Use catalogues, product lists and computer databases to locate information on products, such as stock numbers. (2)
  • Consult co-workers, supervisors and suppliers to find out when loads are coming in. (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use computer-operated machinery. For example, they may print delivery slips using computerized printers. This involves making simple entries into pre-formatted programs. (1)
  • They may get information about changes in stock through a product database. (2)
  • They may enter invoicing information. (2)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Material handlers often work with a partner, although they may work alone or independently. Partnering is important when moving heavy materials or when trying to load or unload trucks quickly. Workers use a team approach to getting materials ready so that they may be moved out efficiently.

Continuous Learning

Material handlers mostly learn on the job. They may receive training in first aid or the safe use of forklifts.

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