The stress of physical movement that causes injury in the workplace also significantly hinders productivity. This is true in any case because the body has to work harder to accomplish a task. The body can’t move naturally, which slows up the process, and it fatigues more quickly.
As we highlighted in our last article, ergonomics and productivity are especially important to consider with today’s manufacturing workforce. The majority of workers are older and heavier, so ergonomic concerns come into play more quickly. Finding ergonomic solutions for your manual material handlers will not only improve the quality of their lives and reduce the risk of injury; it will also enable them to work more productively. Here are some modern solutions that make an impact.
Back injuries are the most debilitating, costly, and common injuries sustained in the workplace. While bending, lifting, carrying, and pushing are all direct risks to the back, other not-so-obvious tasks can be just as damaging.
Chairman of the Ergonomic Assist Systems & Equipment (EASE) Council Jim Galante is quoted on this in “Materials Handling Ergonomics: Minimize the Strain” by Sara Pearson Specter:
“Reaching out puts more pressure on the lower back than bending over and lifting. With back injuries costing up to $90,000 in workers’ compensation claims, we see more companies implementing a turntable top on the lift table to bring the load around to the worker who stays in one place.”
The lift tables he references are just one of many solutions available to bring materials to a height of 30-40 inches. Some other lifting solutions that might make sense include balancers and vacuum lifters.
Furthermore, coupling proper height and minimal reaching into an integrated workstation will reduce even more chance of injury. For some lean companies, this might be work cells. For others, simply arranging supplies and equipment to be at the workstation can limit strenuous movement.
Standing or siting in one spot all day is also hard on the body, and for an aging and overweight workforce, safe exercise is beneficial to overall health. One of the most effective means of ergonomic, safe exercise is a walk-behind electric tug. This is similar to a lawn mower where you walk behind it, but it hauls carts, equipment, or anything else you need to transport horizontally.
The tug does all the heavy pushing and pulling while the operator does the thinking and walking at different speeds. The equipment encourages an optimal walking posture, upright and with hands on handles at an appropriate height. This is far more advantageous to the posture used to operate a forklift or a pallet jack. Furthermore, using a power tug is perfect for the aging workforce who can benefit from the relief of the physical stain of a shop floor environment.
While it’s ergonomically best to replace forklift use as much as possible, it isn’t always feasible to remove it completely. You can buy ergonomic lift trucks with improvements like low step height and easy-to-reach handle holds, ability to enter and exit from either side, and mast designs that enhance visibility of the load and its destination.
Overall, if you choose your ergonomic solution wisely, you’re sure to increase productivity, not just because it’s easier to move, but as a byproduct of the features of the solution.
Load Mover Inc. makes power tugs that are optimized for both safety and practicality. The equipment is known for its productive benefits in both lean and safety programs. We can help you determine your exact needs and how to get the most from your unit. Contact us today: 952-767-1720; firstname.lastname@example.org.