There’s a lot going on in a warehouse during a typical day. One of the most important is heavy lifting and carrying products from one place to another. To assure that warehouse workers are not injured during the process of doing their work, warehouse managers are becoming more concerned with ergonomics.
Ergonomics involves creating an environment and working routine that prevents the possibility of an injury to
the worker. Improper practices employed when picking up a box can lead to injuries to employees’ backs or other parts of the body. Ergonomics is meant to prevent or at least minimize these injuries.
Of course, warehouse workers who are involved in physically hauling products are taught the proper way to physically pick up and put down heavy items. This is part of ergonomics. Moreover, forklifts are designed to assist lift operators avoid injuries associated with working the lift.
A new aspect of ergonomics that is assisting warehouse workers prevent injuries is wearables.
Off The Truck Ergonomics
New technology is allowing wearables to be used to prevent workplace injuries and prompt the wearer into proper posture as he or she do their work. The wearables are especially great for manual tasks that occur off of a forklift or other material handling equipment. These wearables include software that has the ability to analyze and detect poor posture. These items then alert the wearer so that he can get into a better position to perform a task and thus prevent injury.
KINETIC, a company that manufactures wearables located in New York City has a product it calls Reflex. The device is small enough to attach to a worker’s belt. It is programmed to automatically detect improper posture on the part of the wearer. When the wearer is in an improper position to perform a lifting task, the device automatically offers a light vibration warning. The data gathered by the wearable is passed on to a Cloud-based Web dashboard that provides managers with analytics to improve workplace ergonomics. Not only does the device offer alerts of improper posture, it also offers goals and reward functions helping to create new habits and encourage behavior changes that reduce the chance of injuries.
Warehouse managers can use the analytics to identify areas that require changes including layout or material placement to improve ergonomics.
One company that uses the device discovered that improper posture was occurring at a particular area where manual picking was being done from pallets. The pallets of goods were placed next to each other on the floor. Workers were having problems fetching products from these pallets. The analytics from the KINETIC taught the company that by stacking the pallets with a little space between them permitted workers to gain better access to the products. The improved set up helped to reduce unsafe posture when retrieving products from the pallets.
Soter Analytics, another company that manufactures ergonomic wearables based in Como, Washington; London, UK, and Australia, hired a vendor, Kenco Logistics, a third-party logistics provider, to test their equipment. It was found that the technology offered by the Soter Analytics products reduced hazardous movements by 22 percent.
Lift Truck Ergonomics
As mentioned, forklifts and other material handling equipment have incorporated design enhancements that improve ergonomics for workers that operate this machinery. Some recent improvements have not only assisted with ergonomics, but have also helped to improve productivity. Features like fingertip hydraulic controls, full suspension seats, padded floors, and suspension platforms with switches that adjust the suspension level have been included in truck models.
A case in point is that vehicles used for order picking have low floor heights and cabin designs that makes it easier for operators to get off or on from either side of the machine. This makes work movements easier for operators and also contributes to productivity because operators can more quickly access products from either side of an aisle.
In addition, semi-automated order picker equipment with remote controls automatically follow the operator as he or she picks orders on foot. This eliminates the added activity of getting on and off the vehicle.
More emphasis on ergonomics by warehouse managers and the incorporation of new technologies allow ergonomic-related technologies to find their way into the day-to-day routine of a warehouse. Wearables and other products that assist workers prevent injuries is obviously a winner because it also helps boast productivity.