Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)
5.5 injuries occur per 100 full-time warehouse and storage workers every year. – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The tasks that the warehousing and storage industry are primarily engaged in are: “labeling, breaking bulk, inventory control and management, light assembly, order entry and fulfillment, packaging, pick and pack, price marking and ticketing, and transportation arrangement.” U.S. BLS
The warehouse and storage sector may have a high variety of tasks, but they have one very common factor: “a high rate of strain and sprain injury. Compared to other industries, musculoskeletal injuries occurred twice as frequently. These injuries most often affected the back, upper extremities and knees, and most likely were caused by exposure to material handling or other ergonomic-related risk factors including high applied force, awkward postures, short cycle times or long work durations without adequate breaks.”
Here are 3 of the most common risk factors and some ways to reduce injury:
1. Slip and fall injuries. According to the 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 1 in 4 accidents in the warehousing and storage industry occur when employees fall, trip, or slip. Here a few common reasons workers may fall, slip, or trip in the workplace while walking: water or chemical spills, accumulations of dust or powder on floor, electrical cords and hoses positioned across walkways, general clutter on walking surfaces.
To avoid these common injuries, employers should keep the floors clean and free of clutter. Some equipment requires wires or hoses to be in a walkway, if this is the case, they should be covered with protectors to prevent tripping. All walkways and docks over four feet should have railing. And be sure to keep all areas well lit – if it is difficult to see, then it is more likely for a worker not to see potential hazards in their way.
2. Exertion and repetitive stress injuries. A lot of warehouse and storage work will require exertion and repetition. Poor body posture and improper lifting are common reasons for injury, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some common injuries are: musculoskeletal disorders, back, and knee injuries.
To avoid injury, ensure that employees are educated about proper lifting procedures and that the workplace has proper ergonomic design.
3. Equipment-related injuries. Often, warehouse and storage companies will purchase equipment to reduce lifting injuries. However, the equipment purchased to avoid injuries can lead to new safety risks. According to OSHA “forklift accidents cause about 95,000 injuries every year. Other equipment that pose a safety risk would be: conveyor belts, hand trucks, power tools and compactors.”
First and foremost, proper training and procedure is a great way to prevent workplace injury. Additionally, proper gear (goggles, helmets, reflective vests) can help protect from hazards. Ensuring that your workers receive proper certifications to operate heavy equipment (as well as keeping these up to date) is also a great way to prevent equipment-related injury.
Consider contacting an ergonomics expert to assess your work environment. As experts in the field, we strive to make sure all workplaces remain a safe and healthy environment for all.
Be sure to share these tips with your workers or employees. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more detailed information.
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