Warehousing is an essential industry. But it’s also a dangerous one. Warehouses are notorious for having a devastatingly high injury rate, and it’s easy to guess why. Warehouse workers spend their days reaching, bending, lifting, and performing other arduous and dangerous activities that can cause strain and injury.
But what if we told you that warehouses don’t have to be inherently perilous? Improving warehouse ergonomics can dramatically reduce the likelihood of on-the-job injuries by making strenuous jobs less strenuous. Here are some ways to improve warehouse ergonomics and keep your hard-working employees out of harm’s way.
Reduce Package Handling
The packages and loads that warehouse workers carry around come in various sizes, shapes, and materials. A small package won’t do too much damage, but a large one can leave a worker with an aching back. For this reason, OSHA recommends that humans shouldn’t lift more than 50 pounds on the regular.
But what should you do if you have to move something that’s 50 pounds or heavier? You have two options. You can have multiple people move the load (which lessens the likelihood of injury but doesn’t eliminate it) or have a machine move it (it’s pretty hard to injure something that’s metal). LGVs (laser-guided vehicles) are a great option for warehouses that need to handle heavier-than-normal loads. AGVs, which are LGVs with fewer awesome lasers, are also an option.
The next way to improve warehouse ergonomics is to enforce breaks. A lot of them. You’re already providing your employees with the one to three breaks a day required by law. But since warehousing is hard and back-breaking work, it doesn’t hurt to give your employees a few extra five-minute rest periods sprinkled throughout their shift.
These short breaks give your employees the chance to rejuvenate their aching muscles. They can close their eyes for a few minutes to reduce eye strain. Or, they could do some stretches to improve blood circulation and lower their risk of muscle cramps and stiffness.
Keep Machines at Waist Level
Remember how your parents would always tell you to not slouch? That’s because slouching places excess strain on your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and can even shift the vertebrae of your spine out of alignment. Conversely, overextending your limbs can result in dislocated muscles and tendons and even serious nerve damage.
If the machines in your warehouse are too short or too high, your employees will be forced to bend down or stand on their tiptoes to use them. The solution is to ensure all machines are placed at waist level. But unless your employees miraculously share the same height, “waist level” means something different for everyone. How do you choose the best height for your machines, then? By consulting an ergonomics expert, of course!