A peek into the average warehouse reveals a hive of activity in which many operations are powered by people pushing, lifting or bending to reach for items. In this environment, repetitive strain injuries are commonplace and a warehouse that is not ergonomic faces an increased risk of injuries and costly accidents. Ergonomic improvements cut down on sick days, increase productivity and make for a happier workforce.
Do an Ergonomics Checkup
The aim is to reduce the need to lift items off the floor, minimise stretching to reach loads, particularly above shoulder-height, and to cut down on excessive bending. To get a overview of where your problem areas are, take a walk through your warehouse and ask yourself questions like:
- Are workers routinely stretching or bending to reach an area, pick an item or do an assembly?
- Are people required to do any awkward postures such as twisting or stooping?
- Are the loads overly heavy to lift manually?
- Are staff members working in one static position for hours on end?
7 Recommended Improvements
Once you have pinpointed your problem areas decide on ways you can improve the working area. Let’s look at practical steps that can be taken to optimise tasks performed within a warehouse:
- Staff should be working in as close to the neutral position as possible which is looking straight ahead, with an upright posture and elbows at right angles to the body.
- Check that the storage location is aligned for ease of reach without any twisting of the back or extended reaching.
- Ensure that the person is well-positioned so that exertion occurs between knee and shoulder height. Heavy or awkward items should be handled at between hand and elbow height for minimum effort.
- Teach your staff proper lifting techniques involving keeping the item close to the body, bending the knees and using leg strength rather than putting strain on the back.
- Mechanise load lifting and carrying wherever possible with the use of hoists, pulleys, conveyors and carrier tables.
- Carts should be correctly stacked and not overloaded.
- Ensure that the cart wheels are well-maintained and turn smoothly, minimising the force needed to manoeuvre them.
- Safety checks should performed at regular intervals and all equipment should be maintained and kept in proper working condition.
- Make sure that the staff understand the importance of taking breaks at set periods throughout the day. Stretches can help improve blood circulation and reduce cramping.
Optimising ergonomics within the warehouse not only puts the needs of the staff first but also results in a more efficient operation, making it a win-win all round!
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