5 Ways to Improve Warehouse Ergonomics
According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the warehousing industry is identified as having an exceptionally high injury rate. High injury rates lead to lower productivity and employee morale, higher medical expenses, and a damaged reputation. Improving a firm’s warehouse ergonomics can protect both the company and its employees. Below are five warehouse management tips to achieve this goal.
1. Enhance belt pick operations
Some warehouses deal with belt pick operations which require employees to double handle items. One employee removes the product and places it onto the conveyor belt. Another employee transfer items from the conveyor belt onto pallets. In both tasks, employees continually bend, twist and lift. Enhanced ergonomics in this area emphasize the importance of reducing back strain by gently bending knees prior to any lifting action. Also train warehouse workers to position their body directly in front of the product that is to be moved. Performing this ergonomic maneuver prior to bending and lifting to reduce the likelihood of the employee overextending his or her torso. An overextended torso can easily lead to pulled muscles, vertebrae injury, and nerve damage.
2. Require mini-breaks
Mini-breaks are a crucial element of an effective warehouse ergonomic program. These five-minute rest periods give the body time to rest and rejuvenate. This short time period is enough to gently close the eyes and reduce eye strain. Employees can do slow, elongated stretches to improve blood circulation. Better blood circulation lowers risks of developing muscle cramps, numbness in joints, and muscle stiffness.
Make certain employees understand the importance of stepping back from duties at set periods throughout the day. Consider holding a warehouse safety session and discuss the importance mini-breaks play in protecting health.
3. Optimize conveyor belt height
The height of conveyor belts can determine whether a warehouse is implementing poor or optimum ergonomics. Conveyor belts placed at waist level will minimize slouching, bending over, and poor posture. By keeping the body as upright as possible, workers will reduce stress on the musculoskeletal system. Emphasize the importance of reaching only for items within arm’s reach. Overextending one’s reach can easily lead to nerve damage and hindered functioning. Speaking with an ergonomics professional can be the best way to determine which optimal convey belt height works best for your warehouse.
4. Improve package handling
All warehouses deal with packages of varying weights, shapes, and materials. Depending upon the package, it can place different stresses on a warehouse workers body. To improve ergonomics, OSHA recommends limiting packages to a 50-pound limit. Improve ergonomics by making certain workers wear proper gloves when opening packages. Train them in the proper use of utility knives to open boxes. Encourage suppliers to use packaging that contains handle or push-in hand grippers.
5. Enhance pallet operations
Most products transported in and out of a warehouse are on pallets. Wooden pallets can play havoc on a worker’s health. Ranging from 40 to 70 pounds, repeated lifting of these pallets can easily overstress a worker’s back. Enhance ergonomics by requiring the worker to lift by lowering his or her entire body toward the pallet. Employees can do this by bending the knees and keeping the back upright. Unprotected hands can cause workers to receive wood splinters, another workplace hazard. Splinters can easily hinder productivity and functioning. Emphasize the importance of wearing protective gloves.
Warehouses play essential roles in optimizing customer service, productivity, and overall employee satisfaction. Placing worker safety first by implementing ergonomics is essential for overall success.