Ergonomic Material Handling

What Is Ergonomic Material Handling?

Material handling refers to the process of moving, controlling and manipulating goods. Ergonomics, on the other hand, is the science of designing a workplace or system to meet the needs of the worker. Combining these words results in ergonomic material handling: a process for moving and manipulating goods that minimizes stress, strain, and fatigue on the worker.

Bending over to lift a heavy crate, for instance, is a material handling process. An ergonomic process, however, may involve the use of a crane or other heavy lifting device. Rather than exposing workers to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like pulled muscles and back pain, employers can streamline material handling processes and minimize the risk of worker injury by using an ergonomic lifting solution. The worker simply controls the ergonomic lifting device, guiding it to pick up and manipulate the load.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines for manual material handling, which the organization says is responsible for a large number or work-related MSDs. In the OSHA guidelines, employers can find information on how to protect against MSDs attributed to manual material handling. The OSHA guidelines also specify safety requirements for material handling equipment like industrial trucks.

Benefits of Ergonomic Material Handling

Purchasing ergonomic handling solutions is a smart investment for business owners. According to Economic Policy Institute (EPI), work-related injuries and illnesses in the United States cost employers roughly $250 billion a year. When a worker is injured on the job, the employer must pay for the worker’s medical bills, lost wages and other related expenses.

Furthermore, if the worker is severely injured, the employer may have to find and hire a replacement. This can increase the financial cost of work-related injury even higher. One study found the average cost to replace a mid-level employee was 20 percent of his or her annual salary. Assuming the worker earns a $50,000 a year salary, the employer may spend up to $10,000 to find a replacement.

Ergonomic handling solutions can even promote higher levels of productivity in the workplace. Forcing workers to manually move and manipulate heavy loads results in widespread fatigue. If a worker is required to lift and move a dozen heavy crates from one side of the factory to the other, he or she will probably feel exhausted. Once fatigued, worker productivity begins to drop and the company produces less work. Opting for an ergonomic handling solution, however, allows workers to easily move and manipulate heavy loads while subsequently promoting higher productivity levels.

Employers and Material Handling

Employers in the United States are required by law to provide workers with a safe working environment. Unfortunately, though, not all employers comply with this law. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5,190 workers died in 2016 from a work-related injury. The good news is that employers can protect workers from many common injuries by using ergonomic material handling solutions.

The bottom line is that all employers should implement ergonomics solutions in their workplace. It protects workers from injury, saves them money and promotes higher productivity levels.