In any working environment that include operation of heavy equipment people are bound to pick up injuries that cut their efficiency in the work situation. These health effects cut the productivity in the workplace. Assessment of ergonomic issues is essential to ensure reduction of risks in the workplace and come up with ways to control such risks. The report below is an assessment of the ergonomic risks in a storage and dispatch warehouse for sports equipment. In the warehouse the packaging and consolidation of goods is done on the ground floor. This involves a lot of bending which puts the neck and backs of the employees in awkward positions. The tasks carried out in this area must need constant hand and wrist movement that causes static. Because of the great level of detail required in these tasks people often overlook these small injuries that later grow to be major injuries.
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The following assessment of data that provides the ergonomic issues is important in this study. The analysis proves the high number of musculoskeletal injuries that include back, shoulder and neck. In the analysis of data on injuries the high number of injuries have resulted to a loss in time when working. This in turn cuts productivity and later the profitability. Many people are injured during the receiving and product consolidation process. This is the most manual phase in the warehouse. The injuries are attributed to the heavy lifting and manual handling. Many of the injured workers seek medical attention and only return to work on the doctors instructions. The Quick Exposure Check (QEC) tool on is able to prioritize the exposure of the main areas of the body that are at most risk of injury.
XYZ Limited is the firm under consideration in this report is involved in retailing of sports and leisure goods in the market. The firm has been in existence since the 70s and it has grown to great heights. The firm is listed in the stock exchange and its is ranked among the top ten retail companies in Australia.the firm has over 600 stores in Australia, New Zealand and China. The firm has managed to grow by enhancing incorporation of emerging ergonomic factors into the work environment. The firm has a warehouse and logistics unit. They have a total of 180 employees who work from 5am to 10 pm on weekdays. The warehouse deals with receiving, storing and dispatching of goods. These goods include sporting equipment, boating/ camping products, auto-servicing and maintenance products.
Ergonomics is concerned with the design of systems, processes, equipment and environments designed for people. This is done considering the limitations of people and the most effective way they can use their abilities. In each ergonomic situation a careful analysis has to be done to show the ergonomic hazards that exist and come up with effective management solutions to those hazards. Many people confuse the scope of ergonomics to involve only the immediate workstation. The scope of ergonomics involves the whole working system. In a warehouse the use of forklifts and transport devices is quite essential. The devices used have an increased advantage, mainly reducing manual handling but also pose an ergonomic hazard.
In XYZ limited has the warehouse divided into sections. There is a place for reception of the goods where they are unloaded. There is a temporary holding place and a floor packaging area. There is also a product consolidation and dispatch area. The main activities involved in the warehouse are; arriving of goods, goods unloaded from the container, goods moved to a temporary holding bay, various goods are stored awaiting QA checks and after verification the goods are moved to the various storage racks. The non hazardous materials are packed in boxes and the large products are consolidated in one large pallet. Many products may also be packed in one pallet depending on their similar uses or nature. The equipment used include pallet racks, trolleys, forklifts and high reach trucks. Some of the tasks carried out are however manual. This requires some lifting and moving of goods by the employees without using machines.
Identification and discussion of Ergonomic Issues
Through the use of forklifts and trolleys in packaging of goods workers are exposed to ergonomic risks. These risks can be observed by interacting with the employees in the actual work environment. The main activities involved include moving of the goods, unpacking, packaging, storage and dispatch of the goods. The hazards to be identified are analysed as followed;
When moving goods in the warehouse pallet racks may be used. The pallets are placed on a pallet jack for easier movement. This use of a machine eases the movement but a person has to be involved to manually pick up the items off the racks. The items have a range of weights. The first step involved when moving goods on pallets is placing the goods on the pallets. This placement of boxes on the boxes on the pallets has potential risks on the employees. The hazards are due to the repeated bending of the waist to lower the boxes. The hazards are also because one has to place the heaviest boxes at the bottom. This includes lowering the heaviest boxes to a very low bending position. This heavy lifting and bending involving the heaviest boxes will result in very risky body postures. (Briggs, A. & Buchbinder, R., 2009)
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Solutions to these include, raising the pallet level to keep it close to the comfortable posture of the employees. Also the employment of height adjustable equipment to keep the level at the waist of the employees. Enlightenment of employees on hazards of bending while carrying heavy goods can also remedy this situation. The use of a pallet jack to lift the pallet will also increase the height of the pallet to the waist level. The equipment to be employed should be regularly maintained in order to keep them efficient. The equipment should provide workers with efficiency by reducing employees effort when using their hands, arms and backs. (Karwowski, WE, 2003)
Storage of goods
In the warehouse many of the sporting equipment is stored for a period of time. The use of racks increases the storage space which is available to store the goods. The racks are divided into low and high locations. There is also hazards that are caused by double or triple slots, reaching mechanisms and the aisle width. In low locations many items may be stored in pick bins or slots. Because many of the low-level pallets need employees to bend their waist when retrieving goods there is a high risk for injury. The risky nature of the low racks emerge because the heaviest goods are on the bottom racks. These goods when lifted from a bending posture may result to injury. The lowest racks force employees to bend their torso. (Briggs, A. & Buchbinder, R., 2009)
The solutions for the low racks is to elevate the pallets. This can be done by using a palletizer which lifts the low level bins and pallets to the waist level. The palletizer has the effect of lifting higher as the load on it is reduced. The warehouse can also employ the use of turn tables which reposition the load and brings it closer to the body. Empty pallets that are not under use can be placed below the loads. This elevates their level. The use of forklifts is also a remedy to this situation.
Many goods may be placed on high locations which are over the height of the shoulder. To remove such goods the workers have to stress their backs. To place such goods on these high shelves requires risky hand and wrist postures. The solutions to the removal or placement of goods on high shelves include using the high shelves for light goods. The employees should use pick sticks in order to move the goods closer to the edges before picking them. Another hazard is the double or triple slots on the racks. The use of many slots is to maximize the shelving space. This is risky because it will involve the employees straining to reach the very low and very high shelves. This bending of the torso and stretching is risky. All the bottom and topmost racks present access issues for the goods. There is also the problem of reaching. The products that are arranged at the back of the racks my prevent hazards when reaching. This strains the shoulders and back because of reaching and lifting. (Buckle, P., 2005)
The solutions to these two problems include full sloting of the racks. This includes using few slots for heavy goods and reducing the height of racks. The warehouse can also use gravity slow racks which are suitable for slow-moving goods. These racks cut the amount of effort used in stacking the goods. Reaching can be remedied by using rotation pallets such as turntables. This turning brings the goods closer to the person lifting the goods. Using rollers and channels can cut the stress when pulling out the goods from the racks. Using of wider slots can enable the employees to walk into the slot and pick the goods. This is essential for lower slots where heavy goods are stored. The issue of aisle width can also affect the efficiency of the workers. A thin aisle width causes a lot of strain. This can be remedied by increasing the aisle width.( Briggs, A. & Buchbinder, R., 2009)
This process is done for all goods regardless of their weights. The stress an employee will bear on their back depends on the shape, weight and material of the product being lifted. The main goods in the warehouse include heavy goods, goods with inadequate handhold, wooden pallets, wrapping pallets, open boxed goods and goods with plastic wrapping. The heavy goods result in strain in the muscles of the employees and result in back injuries. The main causes of disc injury and injuries to the back are lifting heavy objects repeatedly in a bad posture The main solution to this is for the suppliers to provide lighter packaged goods. In a warehouse heavy items should be easily accessed. The heavy goods should be provided with handles or handle cut-outs. The goods should also come in boxes or containers that will not tear or rip upon lifting. When loading pallets the lighter goods should be toward the middle with the heavy goods toward the edges. This increases accessibility. (Buckle, P., 2005, p.104)
Goods with inadequate handhold provide a hazard to the employees. The goods and containers that don’t have handles or handle cut-outs provide a lot of stress for the employees. There is a strain and awkward positions when retrieving the heavy goods. The suppliers should be encouraged to provide heavy goods with handles or cut-out handles. Many goods are provided with plastic wrapping. The plastic containers may stick on others causing strain during retrieving. This causes strain and stress to the hands, shoulders, arms and back. Due to resistance then the goods seem heavier than they actually are. The solution is to encourage producers to provide plastic with slip qualities. The warehouse can treat the goods as if they are heavy and provide extra headroom and space for these goods. The suppliers can also be encouraged to wrap the bottom with cardboards and only the sides with plastic. (Kroemer, KH & Granjean, E 1998)
The use of wooden pallets in the warehouse can also be a hazard when lifting these pallets. The continued lifting causes strain to the back. Wood pallets may also have splinters that injure the fingers of the employees. plastic pallets can reduce the injuries caused by splinters. Lighter pallets cut the weight lifted. Use of plastic pallets should also be encouraged. This reduces the space occupied by the pallets because they can nest together. This also cuts the issues of splinters. Forklifts should be used in moving the pallets. (Kroemer, KH & Granjean, E 1998, p.69)
The use of wrapping pallets has a potential hazard of injuring the waist due to strain while wrapping. As the person is wrapping the pallet they may strain their backs to wrap the bottom of the pallet. The employees may also injure their fingers by sticking them in the tubes to stream off the wrap. The solutions include employment of automatic plastic wrapping machines. This reduces any instance of strain on the waist. If manual wrapping is to be done then light weight wrap should be used. The rolls should have handles which cuts any instance of cutting the fingers. When opening boxes employees may stress their hands and fingers. This may occur when using small knives. The use of in-line knives may also cause the people to stress the tendons of the fingers. Proper tools should be used to open the boxes. (Tyldesley, BB & Grieve, JI, 2000)
Discussion of Control Strategies
Many methods are employed to assess the risks and come up with control strategies in the workplace. The use of Quality Exposure Checks (QEC), Safework Australia Risk Assessment and Risk Control Form, Risk Assessment worksheets and Task Risk Assessments are just a few ways to check the risks involved. Task assessment is used to identify how the various tasks are integrated and how they relate. This allows inspection of how various individual tasks relate and risks involved. It enables identification of control measures and how they are to be executed. Risk assessment involves the Quick Exposure Check (QEC). The use of Manual Tasks Risk Assessment Tool is the most effective tool for auditing work places across all the industries. This is used in line with the Queensland Manual Tasks Advisory Standard. The tool also aims at assessing the exposure of multiskeletal risk factors in many workplaces. (Karwowski, WE, 2003)
The tool uses the cycle time, force, speed, vibration and awkwardness in the four body regions involved in doing any task. The tool combines the total time a person works that is the exposure to injury and the body regions. The tool comes up with a comprehensive analysis of how the person is exposed and how they will suffer from such exposure. The assessment takes into account the task as a whole rather than individual tasks. The assessment also produces results for a single person rather than the whole number of employees. the results reveal the severity of each characteristic of each task at each region. The highest score of the assessment indicates a high risk for acute injury. A high risk of cumulative injury shows a multiple risk factor to any particular region. (Lavender, S. A. Anderson G. B. J. et al. 2003)
This method is applied to cut instances of Mucsuloskeletal Disorder (MSD). These are injuries such as damage to the joints or tissues of the upper or lower and the back. MSD is attributed to repetitive manual work that a person carries out. These injuries are severe and can result in some permanent injuries. Many organisations seek to prevent occurrence of MSDs in order to maintain the health and productivity of the employees. they aim at implementing various tools and policies to increase the awareness of MSDs and also cut their occurrence in the work places. (Macdonald, W. 2006, p.123)
The Smart Move Toolkit is a method that gives detailed information and advises about risk management frameworks. This identifies, assesses and controls the musculoskeletal (MSD) hazards in the workplace. Another important control strategy is to implement the Code of Practice for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work. This code of practice gives guidance on how to cut risks of musculoskeletal injuries while doing manual tasks. It aims at reducing the severity of injuries gotten from manual tasks. The code explains how to prevent such injuries and whose duty it is to prevent employees from getting such injuries. It also provides guidelines on how to manage the risks caused by the injuries. Many people may also aim at reducing the MSD injuries by following the Work Health and Safety Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice. (Macdonald, W. 2006, p. 57)
After the implementation of the above discussed methods then the management is able to know which risk factors are present, why they are present and where they are present. These methods also provide knowledge on what must be controlled and come up with ways on how to control it. In the hierarchy of control in the work place the control of risks is ranked from the highest level to the lowest. This is the hierarchy of risk control. Many of the regulation mechanisms require the duty holders to effectively minimise and eliminate risks. The most efficient method is eliminating the risk by using alternative methods in doing a task. Other methods may be used such as substitution of the risk with a lesser risky method. There is also isolation of the risk from the person exposed to it. Employment of engineering also cuts the risk by employment of better and more effective methods. Personal protective equipment may be used to cut chances of exposure to risk. (Tyldesley, BB & Grieve, JI, 2000)
The most efficient method to cut MSD related injuries is to implement the provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act, Regulations and Codes of Practice. This is a comprehensive code that covers a lot of the provisions of any other method of preventing injuries caused by MSD related injuries. Another method that will cut MSD related injuries is modification of the design of the work activities at all levels. This changes the work that is handled in a given environment. This modification eliminates the risks that wee there. Provision of mechanical aids such as lifts and cranes cuts any chances of MSD injuries. There is also implementation of team lifting where the logistics of using machines are difficult. People should be adequately trained regarding the activities they carry out. They should be taught all manual handling techniques and the correct methods to handle equipment. This will ensure reduction in MSD injuries. (Snook, S H, Ciriello, V. M. 1991)
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After education of the workers then the management should put in place mechanisms which monitor the risks that arise and the injuries. They should teach the workers to be aware and anticipate new hazards that might come up. They should carry out evaluations to ensure that no hazards have come up from the implementation of new control methods. The management should continually talk with the workers to ensure they are always ware of any new risks. This ensures that there is continuous improvement of the control measures implemented. They should check and register any new injuries in order to promote health and safety of the workers. There are also methods that can be carried out in the long term. These include redesigning the warehouse to create a more effective floor plan and a better racking system. The collaboration with suppliers to provide heavy goods in smaller packages to ease the weight lifted. Also to tell producers to provide containers with handles or holding mechanisms to prevent strains.
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Kroemer, KH & Granjean, E 1998, Fitting the Task to the Human, Harper Perennial, New York.
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