“While managers look for better ways and new tools for material handling, we usually rely on the tried-and-true,” says Engineering Services Manager Sandy Smith. “Protecting workers’ backs as they manage materials in storage and in work areas involves focusing on the basics.”
For example, designing your storage and material handling areas and procedures to keep workers within their “power zone,”—the area of most comfort and strength for workers—is an important step. Figuring out techniques and tools to help workers stay safe while lifting, exerting themselves and performing repetitive motions is also important. Sandy offers these storage and material handling suggestions for giving backs a little more love on the job.
Install angled shelving to improve access to containers; boxes slide onto and back off shelves with less muscle strain.
Place groups of small items in bin racks to keep them easily accessible; no reaching or bending needed.
Store heavy or awkward items on shelves or pallets between knee and shoulder height; place lighter boxes on higher and lower shelves for ease in retrieval.
Leave the lowest shelf (and perhaps the highest, too) empty to avoid back strains caused by heavy lifting from awkward heights.
Paint walls, posts or shelves with stripes or another distinctive indicator showing optimum storage heights for various materials.
Keep frequently accessed items closest to the workspace to lessen the amount of lifting and carrying needed.
Store items in boxes or containers that are lightweight and easily handled, or on the other end of the spectrum, increase the size and weight enough so that one person won’t attempt to struggle with it; instead, it becomes a job for two or calls for tools or mechanical assistance.
Position employees and their mechanical or manual aids so that activities such as lifting, pulling and pushing take place between knee or shoulder height.
Have workers take frequent breaks and switch between various storage and retrieval tasks so they are not overly stressed by one activity or repetitive movement.
If workers must manually move items to and from storage areas, encourage them to take multiple trips and look for ways to improve their grip, such as wearing gloves or adding handles to boxes.
If vertical storage is essential, provide step stools, portable steps, catwalks or platforms for employee use (make sure that extenders are safe for the weight, size and shape of the load being handled and that there is a way to safely get the box from the shelf to the ground).
Instead of lifting and pouring from a drum or barrel, use a siphon or pump, or store the drum on a tilter for pouring.
Make good use of scissor lifts to move heavy objects into the power zone.
Turntables, chutes, slides and conveyer belts can move materials to or from a storage area to a work zone, eliminating the lifting.
Use hooks to reach for lightweight objects to avoid excessive stretching.
Keep the wheels on carts in proper working order. Poorly maintained equipment can increase the force needed to use it.
(Content originally provided by EMC Insurance Companies)
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