The right ergonomics is the backbone of your warehouse operations. While some warehouses today are automated, but some still require workers to manually stock and retrieve items. This involves receiving, stacking, retrieving, picking, lifting, twisting and reaching, all of which make demands on the body, leading to exertion and injury.
When you focus on improving ergonomics, you not only reduce the chance of injury to your workers, but you can actually improve productivity.
Here are 7 ways that you can protect your workers and see an improvement in productivity:
#1 Racks slotting and warehouse zone
Productivity is at its highest when employees don’t have to reach too far from themselves. Known as the ‘primary reach zone’ or ‘golden zone’, these require minimum arm, head and body movement.
These zones are usually within a 24-inch radius from the worker’s body. Intelligent pallet rack manufacturers usually focus on ergonomics as well as improved product movement.
#2 Minimize material handling
Material handling is one of the biggest causes of worker injuries, about 60%. When the warehouse is automated, it inevitably optimizes material handling. In an ideal scenario, material should be touched only once by hand.
#3 Avoiding repetitive motions and unproductive product movement
If the warehouse process requires workers to perform repetitive actions, like reaching, carrying, lifting, shifting, etc., perhaps your warehouse needs a review of its racking layout and operations. You also need to deploy the best suitable storage solutions, like multi-tier shelving, selective pallet racking, cantilever racking among others, to minimise unproductive product movement.
#4 Ergonomic workstations and equipment
Just by replacing basic desks with adjustable workstations can make a tremendous impact on the health and attitude of your workers. Adjusting the height of shelves in pallet racks can reduce pressure on arms, backs and shoulders.
Use anti-fatigue mats and incorporate lifts or hoists to reduce awkward positions to improve warehouse ergonomics.
#5 Evaluate order picking methodology
Understand the operations of your warehouse and pick an order picking methodology that increases speed and reduces employee fatigue.
Advanced order picking methodologies, such as automated storage systems, horizontal and vertical carousel, shuttles, etc., bring the goods to the worker. This reduces time to pack and also improves ergonomics.
#6 Standardise the package handling and weight
Limit and standardise the size of the packaging that your workers have to lift. Unless you have forklifts and hoists in your warehouse facility, limit all packages to around 20-22kgs.
#7 Train workers on proper lifting postures and techniques
Even with all the automation and infrastructural changes that you make to your warehouse operations, it is important to periodically train your workers on proper lifting postures and techniques.
-Do not bend from the back but from the knees instead.
-Do not raise heavy packages above shoulder level.
-Do not twist while lifting heavy objects.
-Encourage use of safety equipment, like gloves, hats and knee pads.
By employing good ergonomic practises in the warehouse, you can considerably decrease risk of worker injury and increase productivity.