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Other Voices: Ten ways to implement ergonomics in your warehouse

By Treat Metcalf, web director, Premier Handling Solutions
March 13, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following column by Treat Metcalf, Premier Handling Solutions is part of Modern’s new Other Voices column. The series, published on Wednesdays, will feature ideas, opinions and insights from end users, analysts, systems integraters and OEMs. Click on the link to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

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The Top 10 Ways You Can Implement Ergonomics in Your Warehouse

Slowly but surely, workplaces across America are realizing the importance of ergonomics in keeping workers healthy and happy.Ergonomics is the scientific study of the way humans work, and how to reduce stress, discomfort and injury in the workplace. Whether your company employs desk jobs or manual labor or both, implementing ergonomics is a necessity.

The question is, apart from hiring an ergonomics expert to come in and overhaul your company, what are some ways you can introduce ergonomic solutions into your workplace? We’ve put together a list of ten things you can focus on to help make your warehouse, office or wherever you work, more safe and comfortable for everybody.

Identify problem areas

Be aware of bad sitting and viewing habits and eliminate them. Sitting upright and viewing a screen properly in front of the body can reduce the fatigue of an employee significantly. Identify both short-term and long-term ergonomic issues, and make sure your employees are educated with ergonomics so they can bring any potential issues to the attention of others.

Training
Properly training is vital to everyone’s general welfare. A well-known ergonomic training program is The Alexander Technique, which teaches the value of exerting the appropriate amount of effort for each particular activity, and thus helps them reduce their risk of developing a repetitive strain injury and other stress-related injuries.

Plan work paths and locations
Optimizing everyone’s daily paths through the workplace can contribute enormously to long-term ergonomic health. Place equipment and designate areas with ergonomics in mind. Reducing walking time and making equipment as accessible as possible will not only help with health and comfort, but it will also make your workplace more efficient!

Learn about your equipment
Learning how to properly operate each piece of equipment in your workplace is vital for everyone. Even those that do not regularly use a piece of equipment should still know the basic safety guidelines and operational instructions. Being properly educated about the equipment in your workplace will greatly reduce the risk of accident and injury.

Resolve hazards and damaged equipment
Hazards like spilled liquids and damaged equipment should be addressed as soon as possible. Operating damaged equipment is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace, and should be avoided. Be mindful of other potential hazards and be sure to address all threats to ergonomics and safety in a timely manner.

Buy ergonomic designed equipment
Buying equipment that is designed with ergonomics specifically in mind is always a good idea. Ergonomic equipment can help save money by reducing the risk of injury, which in turn would decrease the money paid out in workers’ compensation.

Avoid Repetition
Those who perform tasks that require the same motion over and over for an extended period of time are at the most risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Activities like typing, writing by hand, stapling, repetitive lifting, and standing for long periods all have the potential to become threats to ergonomics.

Take breaks
Taking breaks is probably the simplest way to avoid unneeded discomfort in the workplace. If work of any nature is being performed continuously over long periods of time, it can cause stress on the body and mind. When on a break, stretching the body can further help to alleviate pain.

Record data
When implementing ergonomics, be sure to measure the results. Track not only the number of workers’ compensation cases, but sick days and overall productivity. Many companies also survey staff on a yearly basis to gauge job satisfaction based on ergonomic factors.

Assign Jobs and Tasks to the right people
One of the most important aspects of ergonomics is recognizing that every person is different, and making sure that every person’s job is suitable for their specific needs and preferences. Open communication with employees before and during an assignment will help you be aware if a change needs to be made.

These ten things will definitely get you started on the road to a safer and happier workplace. Ergonomics is often overlooked in workplaces across America. Help fight the lack of ergonomics awareness by spreading helpful ergonomics information and sharing your ergonomic solutions.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.


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