Ergonomics in the Shipping Department

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By Jennifer Taylor January 25, 2016

The term “ergonomics” gets thrown around in every industry, but it’s much more than a simple buzzword. That’s especially true for departments that require a lot of repetitive manual tasks — like shipping/receiving rooms.

Without a detailed ergonomics plan in place, you can’t keep your shipping department running smoothly, and staff may even end up with serious injuries. Solid ergonomic practices can prevent health problems endemic to the warehousing environment, including injuries to the back, knees, and upper extremities.

Managers of shipping/receiving and industrial storage operations should start by identifying the ergonomic risk factors. Two of the most common of these hazards are high applied force and awkward posture.

    High Applied Force

    Too often, employees lift and move materials on their own when they should use mechanical assistance. Employees should use mechanized devices including pickers, pallet jacks, forklifts and scissor lifts when lifting or moving heavy materials.

    Rolling conveyors should be used whenever possible to move materials between areas. Order Picking Carts from Solus Group can carry up to 3,000 pounds of materials, limiting the risk of excessive applied force.

    Awkward Posture

    You may have heard the saying: “Bend your knees, lift with ease.” Make sure your company’s employees are trained in proper lifting techniques, and that they never twist their bodies into uncomfortable positions while they’re lifting.

    Still, it takes more than training to eliminate awkward working postures. When employees pick and place items, take care that they don’t twist their backs back or reach too far. Whenever possible, items should be held between the knees and the shoulders during picking or placing. Heavier and/or awkward items should be situated between the elbows and the knuckles. Your shelving arrangement can help to make optimal work positioning possible.

    Industrial Shelving from Solus Group helps to prevent awkward postures and unsafe lifts. This durable shelving provides a safe, convenient location for your operation’s picking, placing, and storage needs.

While packing orders, employees should use “the neutral posture” as much as possible. The “neutral posture” keeps the back and neck straight, the shoulders straight down, and elbows at a right angle.

In the packing context, frequently used items such as barcode scanners and shipping labels should be placed where employees can quickly and easily access them. Shipping/Receiving Desks from Solus Group have adjustable steel shelving that allows for customized application of the ergonomic principles of force minimization and proper posture.

The High Price of Poor Ergonomics

Unfortunately, warehouse staff face a greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries than workers in other industries.

In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 5.2 cases of injuries per 100 full-time workers in the warehouse and storage subsector. Injuries that required days away from work, work restriction, or transfer occurred 3.7 times per 100 full-time workers.

In the warehouse and storage industry, musculoskeletal injuries occur at twice the rate that they do in private industry in general. Injuries in exposure categories such as falls, slips and trips and overexertion occur at rates far higher than in the general private industry.

Proper attention to ergonomic hazards will help decrease these alarming numbers, especially in the shipping room. Invest in careful training and ergonomically sound equipment to drastically improve shipping-room safety — and your company’s bottom line.

References:

Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling.” CDC. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2007. PDF. 19 Dec. 2015.

Ware, Brandy & Fernandez, Jeffrey. “Warehouse Ergonomics/Tips and Techniques to Decrease Injury Risk.” EHS Today. EHS Today, 7 Mar. 2105. Web. 19 Dec. 2015

Worker Safety Series: Warehousing.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2015

Employer-Reported Workplace Illnesses and Injuries - 2014.” U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2015.

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