Manual Material Handling in Retail and Wholesale from an Insurance Perspective

posted on: Thursday June 13, 2013

DSC_6751Insurance premiums in the MMH industry can be high enough to put a company out of business. Brian Roberts, CNA’s National Director of Workers’ Compensation and Ergonomic Services, compiled some interesting data for retailers and wholesalers to consider. MMH issues are often overlooked in these sectors, so Roberts’ intent is to identify current and emerging issues in risk control and workers’ compensation as well as identify strategies for success.

While MMH is often thought of as warehousing, it really extends to anyone who manually handles materials. Stockroom employees and cashiers file a significant number of claims each year, yet their managers don’t always clearly see the problem or solution. Roberts presented CNA data from 2008-2011 that pertained to claim severity and frequency as it relates to MMH:

  • Claim severity by incident – MMH  topped the charts at 33%
  • Claim frequency by incident – MMH held the majority again at 26%
  • MMH claims source frequency and severity – in each chart, boxes, cases, and totes lead every year. Some years they lead by a landslide and some only slightly more than moveable objects.

When reviewing the factors that will affect the number of claims in retail and wholesale, Roberts first pointed to an aging workforce and an obese workforce. Not only is the average age of a US worker significantly older today than forty years ago, but also the number of working adults aged 55 and older is higher and projected to grow another 6.7 million by the year 2025. With age come a lot of changes that affect a person’s ability to do MMH work. Muscle mass and bone density decline, aerobic capacity diminishes, and health conditions like arthritis and high blood pressure are more likely. These are just a few things we may experience as we grow older.

Obesity is a growing issue as well. When looking at the number of obese adults in the US, no more than 14% of the population was reported in any state in 1990. By 2012, a good chunk of the US reported over 30% of its population as obese. The majority of the US reported between 25 and 29 percent of its population as obese. The most obese workers file twice as many claims as healthy workers, have 13 times more lost work days, and have medical claims that cost 6.8 times more than the average claim.

Physical capabilities in the emerging workforce are not the only factors that impact safety and workers’ compensation claims. Roberts listed several issues that CNA consultants witness when they are in the field:

  • Employees aren’t using equipment or aren’t trained on how to use equipment
  • Employees overload carts and pallet jacks
  • Material is stocked or kept on the floor (or only six inches off of it)
  • Objects are stacked too high to see over them
  • Managers are still using lifting videos as safety training. The videos are obsolete because keeping your back straight and bending your knees is not effective enough to avoid injury.

Roberts’ advice suggests that there are a lot of MMH considerations that retail and wholesale managers do not take into account. Two of the biggest ones have to do with ergonomics and equipment. Roberts emphasizes the importance of understanding the body posture, force, and repetition that employees endure on a daily basis. This will help predict injuries, and proper actions taken will help eliminate those injuries. He also discusses the benefits of good equipment. Ergonomic equipment not only eliminates risk factors, but also increases productivity and efficiency.

In general, retailers and wholesalers will find many areas where they can improve their operations for a safer, less costly work environment. Understanding these areas and appropriate, timely action are the keys to improvement.

Looking for practical ergonomic equipment for pushing and pulling tasks? Search this website, email, or call 952-767-1720 for information on how effective a power tugger may be for your business.