Turntables Reduce Worker Strain and Increase Productivity

By Jean Feingold

The constant moving required of workers engaged in manual material handling (MMH) can cause injury. One particularly stressful movement is reaching out or forward from the body while lifting. In fact, the likelihood of injury when reaching out is greater than when bending forward, noted Jim Galante of MHI member Southworth Products, who is also chairman of the Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE) industry group of MHI. Another stressful activity is “translating,” which is when the torso turns to either side while reaching out.

To reduce potential injuries from reaching out and/or translating, use a turntable. “Turntables turn the work instead of the worker, reducing stress on the lower back and side muscles,” said Galante. “They let the worker stay in one place while painting, assembling and connecting equipment. During pallet loading, tests determined that about 40 percent of the time workers spent loading a pallet involved walking around it. By turning the pallet using a turntable, the worker is always doing near-side loading. Productivity is increased because the worker can work more by walking less. Turntables complement LEAN manufacturing by avoiding wasted motion by workers.”

Turntables can be manual or powered. For loads less than 4,000 pounds, manual turntables are usually adequate, with powered turntables are preferred for heavier loads. While most turntables can rotate 360 degrees, others rotate lesser amounts, like 90 degrees, and then return to their original position. Depending on the size of what will be rotated, turntable diameters can vary wildly, from a few inches to many feet. The turntable’s platform may be smooth or abrasive, and round, square or any shape to accommodate a load’s configuration.

“Turntables can be fitted with special fixtures or tooling to hold something in a specific position or angle, permitting better access to the work piece on top,” Galante noted. “Turntables can be flat disks on the floor. These turntables, which are pallet jack accessible, can accommodate pallets which are then rotated, allowing workers to reach all sides of the pallet without having to walk around it.” Turntables can also be mounted on workbenches or lift tables. Typically such manual turntables are less than 3 inches tall while powered mounted turntables are 4 to 12 inches tall.

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