Solving Safety Issues at the USPS: a Load Mover Reduces Injury Risk

uspo Load MoverIt is amazing how big of an impact a small machine can make. Load Mover Inc. makes power tugs – small, battery-operated, walk-behind machines. These tugs can push or pull thousands of pounds. Thousands upon thousands. They’re popular because they crank up productivity as well as safety. They’re also simple to use. The power tugs are seen all over the world of manual material handling, and now the USPS is no exception.

The United States Post Office (USPS) is the second largest employer in America and fourth largest in the world. While the employees most of us see are clerks and carriers, there are many more workers responsible for getting our mail to its destination.

As you can guess, most of these jobs are very physical. While the age range of employees varies, almost half of USPS employees are over 50. These two factors together equal a high risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). OSHA took note of this in 2003. While the organization launched a successful Ergonomic Risk Reduction Process (ERRP), there have been some bumps in the road. Today, there is still opportunity to assist employees, especially those over 50. Load Mover Inc. provided a customized solution that reduced – if not eliminated – the risk of injury for workers pushing mail carts.

(See section titled “Solution Today” to skip to the customized ergonomic solution.)

Background
The ERRP was the product of OSHA’s partnership with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NMHU) and the USPS. According to OSHA, the partnership formed with the goal of reducing MSDs through the ERRP. The vision of the ERRP was that “Postal employees will be able to do their job without pain and enjoy their retirement without any physical restriction.” (Find the article here.)

Both acute and lifelong pain are real concerns for anyone doing physical work. Between sorting, processing, performing maintenance, loading, unloading, and a slew of other job responsibilities, the employees at the USPS strain their bodies every day. The EERP aimed to identify ergonomic risk factors like pushing, pulling, reaching, bending, and lifting, and solve them.

By 2007, over 77,000 employees had been trained. Almost 7,000 ergonomic task analyses had been conducted, and 3,600 fixes had been implemented. Sites that had been running the ERRP for a full three years saw dramatic improvements: 38% reduction in the MSD recordable rate, and 40% reduction in handling and lifting rate. Amongst 85 sites, the ERRP drew a $1.8 million savings in workers’ compensation medical costs.

Moving Forward
While the ERRP was successful, the USPS is so big that it’s difficult to garner full participation from everyone in the system. In January of 2011, the APWU website posted an article titled, “USPS Fails to Keep Proper Record of Injury and Illness, OSHA Finds.” According to the article, during inspections of 10 postal facilities, OSHA uncovered 242 recordkeeping violations for workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA selected the ten facilities after receiving complaints from over 170 workers nationwide who alleged ergonomic hazards at process and distribution centers.  Inspectors issued 37 citations.

Solution Today
Clearly an organization with as many employees as USPS has a monumental task improving everyone’s safety. The USPS’s mission to improve safety is current and ongoing. Here is how one post office benefited from seeking ergonomic intervention:

Problem:
One person is responsible for pushing a 1400-pound mail cart from one area of the facility to another. The distance traveled is about 150 feet each time, and the person does this job all day long.  The employee does use a tow vehicle to accomplish this, but where isle ways are too restrictive, he or she has to manipulate the cart by hand. Workers in this role have an average age of 55. They are incurring a significant amount of physical stress by manually moving the carts throughout their shifts.

Solution:
Load Mover Inc. proposed implementing its Xtra-400 with Manual 5th Wheel and Vertical Pin connection. By using this power tug, the operator can push and pull the heavy cart with little effort. To attach the Load Mover to the mail cart, the Vertical Pin connection engages the Pin Receiver on the cart. The operator can easily engage the 5th Wheel and Pin to the cart by hand. The Load Mover is equipped with an easy-to-use thumb throttle control that varies the speed and forward/reverse functions. The operator can easily maneuver the cart through the mail facility while the Load Mover handles all the physical, strenuous work.

One user-friendly machine will reduce the physical stress of pushing and pulling the cart across the facility all day. This not only improves safety by reducing risk of injury, but also dramatically increases job satisfaction. The Load Mover is a perfect fit for this USPS application.

For information on other Load Mover applications, email info@loadmoverinc.com, or call 952-767-1720.

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