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Warehouse managers may be taking their employees fore granted, especially those who perform tasks involved with material handling. Sure they have access to such things as forklifts, pallet jacks, lift tables, hand trucks, carts, motorized hand trucks, hoists, etc., but there are times during the day when the worker himself must carry containers, put containers on shelves, distribute containers to other locations in the warehouse, etc.
Therefore, it is important for managers to make the manual lifting part of the job as easy as possible for workers to perform. Keep in mind that material handling is one of the largest cost components of a warehouse business. So you should want to avoid unnecessary handling of materials. Managers need to understand the importance of the workers’ relationship between his work environment and the activity they are expected to perform.
When considering the issue of ergonomics in the field of material handling one must take into account the load. It is important that this aspect of the job should be planned in such a manner as to avoid injuries to workers For example:
· Smaller cartons are easier to handle than large ones. Odd-shaped or awkward loads present a number of problems for workers including stress and strain to the back.
· Containers that are too tall obstruct vision or bump against the legs of the worker when being carried.
· Loads should not be too light because workers could be encouraged to handle too much at one time. Loads should be heavy enough to discourage workers from lifting too much on their own.
· Use containers that prevent the load from shifting. Loads that shift in a container may move the center of gravity away from the lifting handler causing stress on the lower back. Loads that shift into an uneven distribution will place torsion on the spine.
· Box, totes and containers should have handles. Handholds near the bottom of the container permit the employee to carry them at the proper height to limit muscle problems in the upper extremities.
· Recognize the material handling involves more than lifting. It also includes lowering, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, and transferring.
· Rotate employees from less strenuous jobs to assist in handling. Split work between two or more employees and offer an appropriate work/rest schedule.
· Encourage workers to use aids when performing lifting tasks. They should be using such things as pallet jacks, lift tables, two-wheeled hand trucks, lift and tilt tables, four-wheeled carts, winches, motorized hand trucks, manipulators, hosts, positioners, cranes, up enders, conveyors, dumpers, and chutes.
· Train employees in proper body mechanics.
Managers should constantly review their material handling policies so that they can make appropriate changes. The review should be ongoing because new equipment is always being introduced that can assist in the process. Employees should be encouraged to become part of the process of improving material handling. Such involvement can be in the form of committees. Whenever considering changes in the process also consider how that change will impact on other jobs and how it may cause new problems.