Are you doing enough to protect workers from material-handling-related injuries and illness? Unfortunately, many business owners turn a blind eye to material handling safety, assuming its the workers responsibility to take the necessary precautions. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) places the burden of responsibility, and liability, on the shoulders of the employer.
Eliminate or Reduce Manual Material Handling
There are several different types of material handling, one of which is manual material handling. As the name suggests, this involves workers physically lifting and manipulating materials. According to the CDC, manual material handling contributes to a significant number of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which is why it’s a good idea to eliminate or reduce this practice.
“Manual material handling (MMH) work contributes to a large percentage of the over half a million cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported annually in the United States,” wrote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Musculoskeletal disorders often involve strains and sprains to the lower back, shoulders, and upper limbs.”
Mechanical Material Handling
An alternative to manual material handling is mechanical material handling. This involves the use of heavy equipment and/or machines to perform otherwise laborious and physically exhausting tasks. An example of mechanical material handling is using a large drum lifter to move a heavy drum to a different area. Even if workers can physically move the drum themselves, opting for a mechanical drum lifter reduces the risk of injury while streamlining the process so it’s done faster and more accurately.
Employers should train their employees on how to use any equipment, machines and tools in the workplace. Failure to do so could result in injury. If a worker is assigned to a station in which he or she is required to operate a machine, the employer should train him or her beforehand. The CDC recommends hands-on training practice, as well as pictures, charts, videos, visual aids, and group discussions for equipment training sessions.
Give Workers Breaks
Another helpful tip to reduce the risk of injury and illness associated with material handling is to give workers breaks at intervals during their shifts. When workers are forced to perform the same physical motions over and over, it can lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome. Allowing workers to have a short 5-10 minute break, however, can significantly reduce their risk of RSIs and other types of injuries.