We are starting a Solutions Series to introduce the improvements that can be implemented in the workplace to minimize the exposure to ergonomic risks.
What are ergonomic risks?
Ergonomic risks are the aspects of a task that impose a biomechanical stress and cause wear and tear on the body. Exposure to ergonomic risks in the workplace can cause or contribute to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.
In this article, we focus on reaching and what you can do to reduce the associated risks and improve your performance.
Workers in material handling industry perform a lot of tasks that involve reaching – reaching for tools, equipment, components, products, or reference materials. When placement of these items is not optimized, operators are exposed to awkward postures. They also spend more time than necessary locating what they need. If the awkward postures happen frequently, the body doesn’t have enough time to recover between reaches. Risks of developing musculoskeletal disorders increase significantly.
Select the right type of workbench
Some awkward postures are due to the height of work surfaces. If a workbench is shared by multiple operators in multiple shifts and the height is not adjustable, the work surface could be too high or too low for some employees. Constant exposure to awkward postures would increases their risk of repetitive stress injuries. One solution could be an electric height adjustable workbench controlled with just the touch of a button. It supports 5th to 95th percentile operators in a sitting or standing posture.
Size of the workbench also matters. It needs to be large enough to support the required tasks but small enough to minimize operator reach.
Set up ergonomic reach zones
How the workstation is laid out and set up greatly influences the user experience. Here is an example. When a frequently used item is placed at the rear of the workbench, it forces the operator to perform long reaches. It takes longer to reach the item each time. In addition it could lead to shoulders injuries when soft tissue is used repeatedly to maintain awkward postures.
Careful planning and thoughtful design which takes into consideration the ergonomics of operator reach can improve productivity and prevent injuries.
Organize all the items on the workstation according to their priorities and assign them to the proper ergonomic reach zones.
Zone 1: High use items, easiest access
Zone 2: Medium use items, comfortable reach
Zone 3: Low use items, reduction in efficiency
Zone 4: Storage
Get in the Green Zone with specialized accessories
Accessories designed with flexibility and ergonomic principles in mind can help eliminate extreme movements associated with reaching. Here are some examples.
1. Articulating bin holder can support up to three rows of assorted size storage bins. You can have your small essential items within easy reach when needed. They swing out of the way when not in use, making for a clutter-free work space.
2. Adjustable shelf with tilt reduces wrist strain when users repeatedly reaching for objects. The tilting angle can be adjusted for easy and comfortable reach of individual operators.
3. When packing material is stored under work surface, operators have to bend hips and waist every time they reach for it. A Spool holder keeps bubble wrap easily accessible to operator and allows the body to remain upright in a neutral position.
4. Box building and packaging of boxes on work surface forces an operator to reach above the shoulder into the box. It exposes them to extreme awkward postures while slowing down the process. Under work surface box-building shelf keeps arms under shoulder height while performing the task and minimizes non-value added movements.