According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statisticsthere were 21 fatal injuries in US warehouses in 2020. reports also show 2.7 million reported cases of warehouse accidents and illnesses in the same year.
With the numbers presented above, it is crucial for warehouse managers to build and implement programs to ensure ergonomics and safety. These two concepts go hand in hand, as ergonomics aims to ensure the safety of all warehouse workers while increasing their efficiency at work.
If you are a warehouse manager, gradually implement the following tips to improve everyone’s ergonomics and safety at work:
Address ergonomic issues
Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSAs, affect the tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. When left untreated, musculoskeletal disorders can cause pain in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck, preventing warehouse workers from working effectively.
Due to the nature of their jobs, warehouse workers are often prone to musculoskeletal disorders because they lift heavy objects, bend over and reach overhead. Protect your workforce from MSD by implementing good ergonomic practices. Good ergonomics in the workplace reduce injuries and reduce muscle fatigue, keeping staff safe and healthy.
Invest in tools for picking help
One way warehouses can improve ergonomics and safety is by using semi-automated order processing methods that use technology. This speeds up workflows and protects personnel from injuries and accidents.
Picking assistive technologies such as RF scanners, voice picking and pack-to-light are highly effective as they reduce the need for personnel during picking. A computer controls these technologies and robots or machines perform the task automatically.
Automate repetitive tasks
Warehouse operations usually require staff to perform various tasks manually. Fortunately, there are now tools that can automate repetitive tasks.
For example, use automated systems to speed up the process instead of having staff handle loading manually. This also reduces the risk of personnel injury and optimizes the work done.
Automated transport systems, such as autonomous mobile robots and automated guided vehicles, can also reduce the number of movements in the warehouse. It allows goods to be transported from one point to another without requiring manual labor from the staff.
Cobots or collaborative robots can continuously and automatically pick up items and place them in their unit loads. As a result, the risk of staff ergonomic issues is reduced as machines perform the pick and place operations.
Schedule regular inspections
To ensure the effectiveness of warehouse operations, regular inspections should be scheduled with the appropriate professional or agency. Inspections also prevent problems from exacerbating and causing injuries and accidents to warehouse workers.
Performing a thermographic infrared research can be a great way to identify potential problems in a warehouse. These surveys use an infrared camera to measure the temperature of an area and identify potential hot spots or areas of high heat. High temperatures can indicate a problem such as an overloaded circuit, a clogged ventilation duct or a faulty air conditioning system. By identifying these high-temperature areas, a warehouse can take steps to correct the problem and potentially avoid a costly outage.
Use proper handling equipment
As a warehouse manager, you should pay attention to the material handling equipment used by the staff. This is important because it affects the condition of the warehouse layout, as well as the number of staff required to perform the task and the ergonomics of the warehouse.
The material handling equipment you choose should depend on the warehouse’s storage system, the items inside, and the day-to-day operations. From an ergonomic point of view, for example, it is best to pack small products with order pickers while they are brought to the desired height. This prevents personnel from picking up items in awkward positions, which could lead to injuries.
All personnel working in a warehouse must be properly trained before they can enter the operating floor. In particular, operators must be properly trained in the operation of equipment, machines and other support systems used in the workplace.
The training provided to staff should also include risk prevention. It is crucial for warehouse workers to be aware of workplace hazards so they can protect themselves from accidents and injuries.
The most important thing is that warehouse employees have to take regular refresher courses. Warehouse safety best practices are constantly evolving and it is important for staff to stay ahead of these changes.
Eliminate falling hazards
Slip and fall accidents are common in warehouses. Fortunately, these accidents are one of the easiest to prevent.
For personnel involved in overhead tasks, encourage them to use forklift work platforms. Consider investing in structural barrier rails to alert personnel assigned to or working on dangerous ledges. It is also important to identify areas where falls are most likely and take appropriate action before an accident occurs.
Take care of clutter
Contrary to popular belief, improving ergonomics and safety in the warehouse does not always involve complex technologies and strategies. Clearing clutter may seem like a simple task, but if you do it consistently, you can achieve your desired goal.
Clutter on the floors and aisles can lead to slips and trips in the warehouse. Make sure these areas are kept tidy at all times to prevent accidents and injuries. Remember to remind all warehouse workers to stack empty pallets and place them in the appropriate storage areas and dry wet areas as soon as they notice one.
Encourage employees to listen to their bodies
The human body can only do a lot – and trying to do more, even when the body tells you otherwise, can lead to injuries. With this in mind, encourage employees to never overlook what their bodies are telling them. Remind them of the importance of getting enough sleep, taking breaks, and eating balanced meals every day.
As a warehouse manager, make it easy for your staff to talk to you if they feel they can’t complete a task. In addition, you should be aware of how changes in routine can affect the skills of your staff. For example, if someone lifted boxes for 20 years and got injured in the process, don’t expect them to do well until then.
Think long term
Implement the tips listed here to keep operations running smoothly through improved ergonomics and safety. This process is a steep learning curve, but the results will be worth it in the long run.