Even in the safest, cleanest, most well-lit and well-ventilated workplace, hidden hazards to worker safety can still generate preventable forms of illness and injury. And one of the most damaging issues in an otherwise safe workplace can come from subtle failures in workspace design and ergonomics. Employees operating a forklift, for example, must be able to see in all directions and operate both lifting and steering mechanisms without adopting postures that are harmful to the neck and spine. And employees who stand on their feet all day or hold one sustained position for an entire shift must have access to shock absorbing footwear or supportive gear that prevent damage to the back and joints.
Serious problems arise when employees in an ergonomically compromised workspace must repeat the same stressful motion over and again. The individual motion may not seem to stress the body or cause discomfort in the moment, but some motions can generate nerve damage, pinching, joint stress, or musculoskeletal stress when repeated for an entire shift, day after day.
Classic repetition injuries often arise when employees are reaching for an object over and over, twisting (as they face towards and then away from an assembly line,) or typing. To minimize risk over the short term, limit repetitive activities involving the hands, wrists, back or elbows to two hours per shift. Meanwhile, consider the moves below.
Short-term safety adjustments
Over the short term, consider changing the workspace layout to avoid frequent twisting. For example, if an employee stands at an assembly line and twists to the right over and over, try moving them to the other side of the line midway through the shift to alter the twists to the left.
Change tasks throughout the shift and don’t allow a single employee to spend the entire day in a single workspace. Also, make sure materials handling aides, like forklifts and carts, are properly designed to minimize stress during repeated actions.
Over the long term, consider expanding training opportunities to make sure employees gain proficiency with multiple and varied skill sets. Provide automated tools and lifting equipment to reduce stress placed on the body. Also, when making the decision to invest in new tools and equipment, choose adjustable and customizable equipment so employees can adjust settings to accommodate their own needs.
Several models of Toyota lift trucks and pallet lifters now offer adjustable settings for seating and controls. And as always, Toyota lift trucks are designed with ergonomics and employee safety as a top priority. To learn more, contact your local Liftow office today.