Businesses of every type and size often have areas where materials are stored, requiring occasional to frequent access. These areas can contain items of every size and shape and accessibility may range from easy to difficult. Here are some ideas for improving the ergonomics of your storage area and reducing some common risk factors for injury.
- Avoid over-reaching by keeping a sturdy ladder or step stool in the storage area. A “pull stick” can be used to access materials on higher shelves as long as the materials are lightweight.
- Store only lightweight items on top shelves both for injury reduction and earthquake preparedness.
- Use slip sheets made of low friction material to facilitate the sliding of product.
Frequent bending to items stored on low shelves
- Store frequently used items on shelves between the knee and the elbow to reduce frequent bending.
- To reduce bending, use one or more pallets to raise material off of the ground.
Frequent lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy loads
- Whenever possible, use material handling equipment such as carts, hand trucks, dollies, or portable conveyors.
- Set up shelves at the same height as carts to facilitate transfer of heavier items without lifting.
- Ensure that “curb ramps” are used if carts, hand trucks, and dollies are used to move items over curbs.
- Smooth out rough floors and thresholds for easy movement of carts, hand trucks, and dollies.
- Order or store items in boxes with good grips and, if given a choice from a vendor, order the lightest weight possible.
Unexpected exertions when the weight of the object is unknown or an item falls
- Have suppliers label boxes with its weight, label racks, establish lifting limits, and adhere to those limits.
- Never try to catch a falling object. Objects can be replaced but backs can’t.
- Stack loads carefully and beware of crushed or severely damaged boxes. Ensure suppliers ship in sturdy containers. Repair or discard damaged pallets.
Awkward postures caused by cramped conditions
- If space allows, store items on pallets and move the entire pallet out with a pallet jack.
- Minimize twisting and bending as much as possible by placing frequently accessed materials at the front of the storage area. If you must get to items in the back, remove items in front first versus bending and twisting to pull.
- Use gravity fed or slanted shelves, which allows materials to slide to the front of the storage rack.
Cold storage areas
- Minimize cold exposure by knowing what you’re getting before you go in and about how long you’re going to be in there.
- Dress in layers. For short exposures, keep a warm jacket on a hook outside the cold storage area.
Slips, trips, and falls
- Practice good housekeeping. Immediately clean up spills and packaging materials.