3 ergonomic improvements to make in your warehouse

There’s no shortage of potential safety issues in a warehouse. Large quantities of inventory are regularly unloaded, organized, stacked, picked and shipped, presenting an environment of organized but fast-moving activity.

Given this atmosphere, it may not come as a surprise that the materials handling and transportation industry experienced the highest number of on-the-job injuries that led to days away from work. In 2016, this category saw 178,620 illnesses and injuries, or 229.3 of every 10,000 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s nearly twice as many as the next-highest category: production occupations.

For five straight years, overexertion and bodily reactions has been the No. 1 type of event that led to an illness or injury requiring days away from work. Overexertion during lifting or lowering specifically is one of the top three causes of injury in material handling occupations. Sprains, strains, tears and fractures are also common injuries that keep employees sidelined at home. But warehouses can prevent all kinds of injuries by outfitting their facilities with the right ergonomic equipment, which can also make operations quicker and more efficient.

The following three additions to your warehouse could contribute to a safer work environment that employees will appreciate:

1. Cranes

It’s easy to overexert yourself when lifting heavy boxes or machinery. Whenever employees are asked to lift more than 40 pounds, there should be some form of coupling or assistance to help them out.

Cranes are excellent options for easing the strain of lifting and lowering heavy items. These are designed to maneuver commonly moved items, such as unique large components on a manufacturing assembly line that require transportation multiple times per day. Certain cranes also have more general uses, like those outfitted to handle several items of similar shapes and sizes that need to pass through the same checkpoint, such as boxes or crates of inventory.

2. Automatic Storage/Automatic Retrieval Systems

Picking bottlenecks are very common in warehouses. Although they are usually linked to inefficiency, they can also cause injuries. During a seasonal rush, a picker may be inclined to pull an item off a rack unsafely in order to save a little time. But if that item is too high or heavier than that picker anticipates, retrieving it can be dangerous.

AS/AR systems make the picking process quicker, easier and safer. Items are stored vertically, and the shelving is highly compact, allowing for greater capacity in an optimized shelving footprint. When an operator requires a certain item, he or she uses a control panel to request it. Once that object is identified, it is brought to a safe location and height to be lifted. Workers won’t have to put themselves at risk of lifting injury or worry about rushing. AS/AR systems do all the prep for them, giving them everything they need for a safe and accurate pick.

3. Rotating conveyor

Conveyors are great for getting inventory and other objects from one point in a facility to another, but the average straight-line conveyor has its drawbacks. When it’s time for the item to turn a corner, an employee may have to physically move it from one position to another. Additionally, items such as pallets of goods will require shrink-wrapping and other adjustments at specified points along their path.

By installing rotating conveyors at those critical junctures along the conveyor line, facilities can eliminate the risk of strain that workers would experience if they had to move or turn heavy items. These conveyors are designed with circular components that have the same rollers as a normal conveyor, but are positioned on turntables to allow for simple spinning, which help workers change the direction of traveling items with minimal effort. Rotating conveyors can also be positioned near wrapping stations. Instead of moving the wrapping material around the goods, workers can keep the wrap stationary and turn the pallets of goods easily.

With these ergonomic solutions, your facility can reduce injury risks, prevent bottlenecks and save a lot of time. Are you thinking about improving the ergonomics at your manufacturing plant or warehouse? Reach out to Miner today. We can help you identify which ergonomic assets can make the most sense for you facility and your employees.