The Top 4 Ergonomics Advice For Warehouse Employees
Warehouse jobs typically require a lot of repetitive motions such as lifting, bending, and reaching. However, making the facility as ergonomic as possible can reduce the potential strains associated with those movements.
Ergonomics relates to ensuring a facility’s design accommodates how people move and reduces anything that could cause discomfort or limit productivity. However, it also concerns teaching workers the injury avoidance actions that are within their control. Here are some useful ergonomic safety tips for warehouse workers to follow.
- Begin With a Strong Foundation of Lifting Basics
Staying safe in a warehouse starts when people recognize and avoid unsafe movements. Teaching them how to lift is a good start. People use about 700 pounds of back muscle force while lifting a 25-pound box from the floor.
The best way for them to manage the load is to lift primarily with their legs and avoid bending from the waist. They should also maintain straight backs without twisting the spine.
Their stance before lifting something is important, too. People should stand close to the object they’re handling and keep their feet shoulder-width apart. Having one foot slightly in front of the other improves balance.
- Pay Attention to an Item’s Height Before Handling It
Ergonomics experts often refer to the “power zone,” which is the item height associated with the greatest ease of lifting. It’s in the mid-thigh to mid-chest range.
One way for people to stay inside it is to change their height in relation to the product to lift, such as with a stepstool.
However, it’s even better if a workplace changes the heights of all or most of the products handled. A lift table puts items at waist height. People should then find it’s easier and more comfortable to transfer them to shelves.
Another general rule, but one that primarily applies to the people responsible for the warehouse’s layout, is to keep the heaviest items stored at reasonable heights. It’s typically hardest to lift heavy objects from the floor or over one’s head. Staying mindful of the item’s original placement and where the person must lift it can help form good ergonomic safety practices.
If people notice that their roles require a lot of repetitive movements, they should consider speaking to their supervisors about tools that could help. If a warehouse worker spends most of their shift retrieving products for shipment, an item picker could help them avoid too much overhead reaching.
- Assess the Environment and Load Before Lifting or Carrying Something
People could still follow all the recommended ergonomic safety tips and end up injured. However, one way to further reduce that possibility is to survey the area and the load itself before proceeding to pick up or carry something. Consider questions such as:
Could dim lighting cause me to trip en route to my destination?
Do I have a clear path ahead of me?
- Does the container have handholds to use?
- Should I wear gloves when carrying the load?
- Do I need mechanical assistance or help from another person?
- Is there a specific place to set this load at the destination?
- Can I break the load into smaller components?
- Are there overhangs, slick surfaces, or other obstacles to contend with?
- Is the load awkwardly shaped, or could carrying it obstruct my vision?
- Remain Open to How Technology Could Help
Many ergonomic safety tips have direct links to human actions. But that doesn’t mean machines can’t play a role in reducing accidents and lessening the chances of strain.
In one example, decision-makers at Fiat invested in 11 collaborative robots to help workersmake and inspect one of the company’s electric cars. An ergonomics specialist who supervised the implementation said the bots helped employees avoid tasks that put them at risk of musculoskeletal disease and arm joint damage.
A small trial at a Frito-Lay plant used a different kind of tech to improve ergonomics. Workers used wearable devices that detected high-risk movements and vibrated to encourage people to make positive changes. The data also went to a cloud-based dashboard that suggested how management should make workforce changes.
This approach brought a 67% reduction in lost work time. It also lowered the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable injuries by 19%. However, these positive examples do not suggest that technology always enhances ergonomics.