New Articles

Tips for Warehouse Managers to Improve Ergonomics and Safety


Tips for Warehouse Managers to Improve Ergonomics and Safety

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 21 reported fatal warehouse injuries in the U.S. in 2020. Reports also show 2.7 million reported cases of warehouse injuries and illnesses in the same year. 

With the numbers presented above, it’s crucial for warehouse managers to build and implement programs to ensure ergonomics and safety. These two concepts go hand in hand as ergonomics aims to guarantee the safety of all warehouse staff while increasing their efficiency at work. 

If you’re a warehouse manager, gradually implement the following tips to improve everyone’s ergonomics and safety at work:

Address Ergonomic Issues

Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, affect the tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. When left untreated, MSDs can cause pain in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck, preventing warehouse staff from working effectively.

Given the nature of their jobs, warehouse staff are often prone to MSDs because they lift heavy items, bend all the time, and reach overhead. Protect your staff from MSD by implementing good ergonomic practices. Good ergonomics in the workplace reduce injuries and lessen muscle fatigue, keeping staff safe and healthy. 

Invest in Picking Assistance Devices

One way warehouses can improve ergonomics and safety is by using semi-automated order processing methods that use technology. This expedites workflows and keeps staff safe from injuries and accidents. 

Picking assistance technologies, such as RF scanners, voice picking, and pack-to-light, are highly effective as they reduce the need for staff during the picking. A computer controls these technologies, and robots or machines automatically perform the task. 

Automate Repetitive Tasks

Warehouse operations usually involve having staff manually complete a variety of tasks. Fortunately, there are now tools that can automate repetitive tasks. 

For instance, instead of letting staff manually handle loading, use automated systems to make the process faster. This also lessens the staff’s risks of injuries and optimizes the work done. 

Automated transport systems, such as autonomous mobile robots and automatic guided vehicles, can also reduce the number of movements made in the warehouse. With these, goods can be transported from one point to another without requiring manual labor from staff.

Cobots or collaborative robots can pick items and place them into their unit loads continuously and automatically. As a result, the staff’s risks of ergonomic problems are reduced as machines carry out the pick-and-place operations. 

Schedule Regular Inspections

To ensure the efficacy of warehouse operations, regular inspections should be scheduled with the appropriate professional or agency. Inspections also prevent issues from worsening and causing injuries and accidents to warehouse staff.

Conducting a thermographic infrared survey can be a great way to identify potential problems in a warehouse. These surveys use an infrared camera to measure the temperature of an area and identify any potential hotspots or areas of high heat. High temperatures can indicate a problem such as an overloaded circuit, a blocked ventilation duct, or a failing air conditioning system. By identifying these areas of high heat, a warehouse can take steps to remedy the issue and potentially avoid a costly breakdown. 

Use the Right Handling Equipment

As a warehouse manager, you should pay attention to the material handling equipment used by the staff. This is important as it impacts the condition of the layout of the warehouse, as well as the number of staff required to complete the task and warehouse ergonomics. 

The material handling equipment you choose should depend on the warehouse’s storage system, the items inside, and the operations performed daily. For example, on an ergonomics level, it’s best to pick small products using order pickers as they’re raised to the desired height. This prevents staff from picking items in awkward positions, which can lead to injuries. 

Train Operators

Any staff working at a warehouse should be properly trained before they can enter the operations floor. Operators, in particular, should be trained properly on how to operate equipment, machines, and other support systems used in the workplace. 

The training provided to the staff should also include risk prevention. It’s crucial for warehouse staff to be aware of the hazards present in the workplace, so that they can protect themselves from accidents and injuries. 

Most importantly, warehouse staff should undergo refresher courses regularly. The best practices in warehouse safety constantly evolve, and it’s important for the staff to stay ahead of these changes. 

Eliminate Falling Hazards

Slip and fall accidents are common in warehouses. Thankfully, these accidents are one of the easiest to prevent. 

For staff involved in overhead tasks, encourage them to use forklift work platforms. Consider investing in structural barrier rails to alert staff assigned or working in hazardous ledges. It’s also important to identify areas where falls most likely occur and take appropriate actions before an accident takes place. 

Take Care of Clutter

Contrary to popular belief, improving ergonomics and safety in the warehouse doesn’t always include complex technologies and strategies. Taking care of clutter might seem like a simple task, but doing it consistently helps you achieve your desired goal. 

Clutter on the floors and aisles can cause slips and trips in the warehouse. Ensure that these areas are tidy at all times to prevent accidents and injuries. Don’t forget to remind every warehouse staff to stack empty pallets and place them in the correct storage areas and dry wet areas as soon as they notice any. 

Encourage Staff to Listen to their Bodies

The human body can only do much — and attempting to do more even when the body tells you otherwise can result in injuries. With this in mind, encourage staff never to overlook what their bodies are telling them. Remind them of the importance of getting enough sleep, taking breaks, and eating well-balanced meals every day. 

As a warehouse manager, make it easy for your staff to speak to you if they feel they’re unable to complete a task. Moreover, you should be aware of how changes in routine can affect the ability of your staff. For instance, if someone has been lifting boxes for two decades and got injured, don’t expect them to work back up to that point. 

Think Long-Term

Implement the tips mentioned here to ensure that business operations remain optimal due to improved ergonomics and safety. This process is a steep learning curve, but the results will be worth it in the long run.


Three Tactics for an Environmentally Friendly Warehouse

What do buying a new car, picking up a latte in the neighborhood and clearing the table after a family dinner all have in common?

Each of these actions prompts us to think about environment and take decisions about the use we make of recyclable, compostable and biodegradable waste. As a society, we are more and more conscious of the role each of us plays when it comes to the environmental responsibility and take it into consideration when making purchase decisions.

And how about a distribution center? Governments try to remedy the alarming quantity of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the supply chain industry.

Here are 3 tactics you can consider implementing in your warehouse operations, all while taking into account the profitability and efficiency of your operations.

1. Hydrogen fuel cells for forklifts

From a cost-effective standpoint, hydrogen fuel cells may be a superior option to the traditional lead-acid batteries.

These batteries stand out thanks to the longer useful lives than their traditional counterparts. The initial investment and maintenance costs are comparable. The only potential drawback is the cost of the actual forklift model using the new technology. Depending on the model chosen, operators may or may not make a business case for an environmentally friendly alternative.

Hydrogen fuel cells also allow for greater logistical efficiency. The refueling period is relatively fast and results in significant time savings when compared to working with lead-acid batteries. What more, these forklifts travel much faster than the conventional battery-powered ones.

Finally, hydrogen fuel cells emit no GES while operating. They bring you closer to reaching the sustainable development objectives set by your organization.

2. LED technology lighting

The initial investment for LED technology will be higher than for fluorescent lights but with lower annual operating costs. In addition, the life expectancy of LED lights is much longer, and can offer as many as +200,000 hours with variations due to industry differences. Your business may reach the break-even point after only three years following the investment.

In terms of logistical efficiency, the only downside will be the brightness of the LEDs. At some point, the luminosity at your warehouse may fall below acceptable levels despite what LED suppliers may claim.

Finally, the energy efficiency of LED technology is by far more attractive than that of fluorescent lights (80% compared to 10%). In addition, LED lights do not contain any mercury.

Use of wind energy?

How about wind power? Will installing wind turbines be profitable enough to power your distribution center? To find out, you’ll need to evaluate your electricity cost as well as the wind patterns in your area. Add to that the cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining the wind turbines.

Unlike fossil fuels, wind is not a stable source of energy, and logistical efficiency may be affected. This is especially the case when the wind turbines cannot fully satisfy the warehouse’s need for electricity. On the other hand, CO2 emissions from the warehouse’s power supply would be completely eliminated.

Even though the distribution center may not be fully self-sufficient with wind power as the only source of energy, wind turbines are still a good option. Building a hybrid warehouse that relies on both wind power and network electricity is a solid contribution to sustainability.

Which tactic to implement?

All three options discussed in this article are sound from an environmental point of view. They all further environmental conservation.

Each option has to be carefully evaluated with your suppliers. The costs of acquisition, installation, and maintenance must be accounted for. This exercise will allow business owners to manage the ROI expectations and make the right decisions both for the business and the planet.

Going ahead with any of these initiatives will serve well the generations to come.

Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to reach out to us here to learn more.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.