Ergonomics for Warehousing and Logistics – A Look at Worker Safety and Comfort
Dr. Kevan Orvitz, Contributor
Fulfilling your hiring list most likely includes searching for employees that are willing to lift, twist and bend all day. These workers are not just performing these movements occasionally, they are likely to be lifting over 50 pounds multiple times throughout the day, exposing themselves to overexertion, pain and musculoskeletal disorders.
OSHA has shared survey results showing that 65% of all injuries in workers in a warehouse environment, are caused by manual labor, including lifting, handling heavy materials and carrying them throughout the workplace. Employees working within warehousing, construction or distribution centers are highly susceptible to injuries that can lead to excessive absenteeism, increased healthcare costs and even death.
Workers who rely on their physical strength throughout the day easily become fatigued and face frequent aches and pains. As the days and weeks carry on, physical exhaustion can lead to decreased awareness, reducing their ability to work safely. An employee walking through their warehouse or distribution center, carrying a heavy load, can slip, trip or fall due to fatigue and environment.
Common Ergonomic Obstacles
Whether employees work in a warehouse, distribution center or construction site, each faces numerous ergonomic and safety hazards on a daily basis. For example, forklift operators often complain of lower back issues which stem from prolonged sitting and vibration from the forklift. They also suffer from musculoskeletal disorders, because they also do repetitive physical movements throughout the day, such as twisting and lifting, while sitting in an awkward position.
The warehousing and distribution industries are responsible for twice as many musculoskeletal disorders than other private-sector industries. Many warehouses feel ergonomic programs are a waste of money and leave their employees susceptible to terrible injuries. Utilizing proper ergonomic programs and initiatives can reduce and eliminate potential injury and illness.
OSHA reports that work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the highest health hazard facing our country. Almost two million workers are suffering from musculoskeletal disorders annually, and over half of these people are forced to be absent from their job. Some of these injuries cause short term absenteeism while others can lead to permanent disability. Musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for $15-$20 billion a year.
These statistics are shocking and appalling. Employers are morally and legally obligated to protect their employees and provide a safe workplace. Implementing effective ergonomic programs can tremendously reduce the amount of injuries, healthcare costs and pain and suffering within the workplace.
Utilizing a strong ergonomics program fortifies the workplace and keeps employees engaged in their personal safety. An efficient and thoughtful ergonomics program can reduce safety hazards, injuries and travel time throughout the warehouse, distribution center or construction site. Many of these employees hurt themselves when they bend down or reach for a pallet rack or lift a heavy case. Leaving these items on the floor requires more physical movement like bending and reaching. Creating a more visible and reachable pallet rack by utilizing flow racks can decrease the amount of mobility needed.
Using our prior example of forklift operators, there are a few ergonomic solutions for these employees, starting with their seat. Utilizing a chair that is weighted, tilts and swivels can help with awkward twisting. It’s important to adjust the seat, back, footrest and an anti-fatigue over-seat.
On the other hand, other workplaces like warehouses and distributing centers install traditional anti-fatigue matting to alleviate aches and pains associated with walking on unforgiving surfaces. Unfortunately, these well intentioned efforts can cause more pain than help. Traditional anti-fatigue mats are limited by nature, they cannot cover the entire workplace. Even worse, they collect debris, peel from the ground and become uneven due to differences in weight distribution throughout their life. Anti-fatigue mats can ultimately lead to slip, trip and fall disasters.
Fortunately, an ergonomic solution exists that covers warehousing/ distribution centers and construction sites from all angles. Personal Anti-fatigue Mat Insoles provide individualized support, while reducing pain and fatigue with every step. Initiating an ergonomic insole program creates a more engaging and holistic safety program, because personal anti-fatigue insoles feel custom. Personal anti-fatigue insoles comprised of dual layer memory foam are inserted into the employee’s shoe, providing incredible shock absorption and support. Not only do they increase productivity and performance, but they reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls, as they help eliminate hazardous traditional anti-fatigue matting that ages quickly and is costly to replace.
Creating a Safety Culture
Whether you’re protecting your workers within the warehousing, distribution or construction sector, it’s important to make sure that all employees are properly trained. Assuming workers understand safety protocols is the first step towards disaster. Workplaces and employers that are proactive, verses reactive, save their companies and employees from costly safety incidences.
Management needs to make sure that all equipment is properly maintained, work areas are clean and free of clutter, and that employees are aware of their surroundings and ergonomic solutions. Safety success begins with understanding the needs of your workers. Taking the time to assess their daily challenges can do more than protect your budget; it can save their life. Providing employees with a supportive safety culture not only improves health and wellness in the workplace, but it creates an atmosphere where safety is a priority that everyone is proud to support.
Dr. Kevan Orvitz is President and Founder of MEGAComfort. He is also a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
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