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.
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.
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.