By Michael Fickes
Do the demands of the manual material handling tasks you assign fit the capabilities of your workers?
Have you studied the experience of your workers, watched them on the job looking for awkward postures, repetitive motions, fatigue and other indicators of a poor fit?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ergonomics is the process of fitting the demands of a procedure — a warehouse task, perhaps — to the capabilities of an individual or in this case, a warehouse worker.
You can also study worker’s compensation reports. Do certain injuries recur? What tasks seem to be causing those injuries?
Once you have figured out the problems, you can reduce the severity of the problems by making ergonomic improvements with new procedures or equipment.
Two categories of ergonomic equipment are used in a warehouse: positioning equipment that places materials at a height that enables workers to pick and pack or unpack without fatigue over a full shift; equipment that enables workers to lift and maneuver heavy materials over the course of a shift – without injuring themselves or others.
“There are two basic tasks in the warehouse,” says James J. Galante, director, business development with Southworth Products Corp., a manufacturer of ergonomic materials handling equipment for vertical lifting and work positioning. “First, you pick a load off of a pallet or shelf, and second, you put a load onto a pallet or into a container.”