Equipment Spares Back Injuries in Hospitality Industry

posted on: Sunday April 6, 2014

08-abouta_1In the service industry, the hospitality sector experiences the highest rate of work-related injuries. Strains, especially to the back, are amongst the most common and costly of these reported injuries. Looking at the causes of these strains and other problems, it is easy to see why the hospital industry is so at risk:

  • Repetitive tasks
  • Reaching or stretching
  • Awkward postures
  • Heavy loads
  • Improper lifting

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, around 20% of all recordable work injuries are to the back. These injuries also result in the most work time lost as well as the highest expenses to employee and employer. Sadly, those who incur a back injury are very likely to reinjure their back.

While there are many manual tasks that can lead to a work-related injury in this field, those affecting the back are the most significant. Some of these include:

  • Lifting, carrying, and/or moving heavy items. Some items include kegs, boxes of alcohol, bins of ice, containers of water, laundry, vacuums, and other equipment.
  • Bending – with or without lifting, as in changing sheets; retrieving laundry; refilling ice; stocking bars, shelves, and closets.
  • Reaching, as with washing laundry, into and under carts, to and from high shelves.
  • Pushing and pulling carts, beds, furniture – especially on carpet or floor mats

Based on this information, the people who stand out as most at risk are hotel housekeepers, bartenders, bar-backs, and other food preparation personnel. In some cases, other hotel employees also perform these duties.

It is difficult to address all these issues with just one solution, but often times just a few pieces of equipment can be used for a variety of manual tasks. Optimizing manual material handling equipment will save on cost and time. When one person can use the same gear to accomplish multiple tasks, he or she can flow easily and painlessly from one responsibility to the next.

When evaluating the types of equipment available for manual tasks, a few stand out as multi-functional.

Extension tools: while these make up the least expensive solution, they can be used for many jobs that require reaching. Reaching, like bending and repetitive tasks, is one of the actions that is almost impossible to eliminate. Other equipment will still be necessary to replace or assist with more laborious jobs. However, a person’s resilience depends not on one or two job duties, but rather a culmination of responsibilities throughout a shift, workweek, and work month. When staff engages in the aforementioned actions that can’t be eliminated, they fatigue their bodies. This makes them even more vulnerable to injuries when doing heavy pushing or lifting. Muscles need time to recover from activity, so even smaller, lighter tasks, when repetitive, leave the body more susceptible to injuries later in the shift. Additionally, a fatigued body and mind is more likely to mistakenly neglect proper body mechanics.

By using extension tools to reach into bins, pick up loose trash, and clean hard-to-reach places, employees are spared precious energy that is needed later.

Carts with spring-loaded platforms: depending on the weight-bearing capacity of the platform, this can eliminate a lot of bending and lifting. These kinds of carts are most often used for laundry carts, but they may be useful for bar applications and food prep as people transport bins in and out of coolers and freezers. These carts can eliminate a significant amount of bending throughout a shift.

Remember when choosing any cart to factor in the force it takes to push and pull it around a site. The weight of the cart is not the only factor that affects pushing/pulling difficulty; floor surfaces and wheel quality make a huge difference in the effort it takes to move a cart.

When carts are still heavy to start, stop, or move, a power tug will completely eliminate the strain of pushing and pulling.

Power tugs: this equipment is often seen in more industrial sectors of manual material handling, but they are perfect for the hospitality industry. Power tugs are designed to move tens of thousands of pounds. However, most companies, like Load Mover Inc., build models that are appropriate for loads weighing only up to 1,000 pounds.

Power tugs are compact, durable pieces of machinery that any adult can safely operate. They are designed to push and pull anything on wheels. Attachments come standard but can be designed to hitch onto any receiver. The tugs are battery operated and maneuver easily around corners. An Xpress model would be ideal to move laundry, food, ice, garbage, kegs, cases, cleaning supplies, beds, and more. Consider how much safer and more productive a single job will be when hundreds to thousands of pounds of effort are eliminated from a shift. Companies that buy power tugs for one task repeatedly find several other applications for the equipment.

While an investment in equipment can be significant, the cost saved by reducing the risk of injury is even greater. Workman’s comp, medical bills, recovery time, and lost work time all decrease when ergonomic equipment is used effectively. Thousands to tens of thousands of dollars a year can be saved in back injury costs.

For information on the applications of a Load Mover, equipment specifications, and other inquires, search this site, email, or call 952-767-1720.