Poor operator posture and prolonged use of material handling equipment can lead to long-term injuries. This can be prevented by employing proper ergonomics when operating forklifts and other material-handling equipment.
In this article, we’re discussing the different types of material handling equipment ergonomics and their importance.
Material handling equipment has made it easier and more efficient for many industries, revolutionising the way in which they handle inventory and materials. However, material-handling equipment has not eliminated the ergonomics and musculoskeletal issues and concerns of material handling.
Operating a forklift is demanding and places a strain on the health and well-being of the forklift driver. Not only this but their efficiency and productivity in the workplace are also impacted and lead to reduced profits. It is therefore important to take measures to minimize the strain experienced by forklift drivers.
Health and work environments are strongly related and by ensuring your forklift driver is healthy and comfortable, you can prevent accidents and inefficiencies that occur as a result of fatigue and physical strain.
Ergonomics allow forklift operators to do their job effectively, safely, comfortably and with accuracy leading to improved efficiency. The correct machinery makes a huge difference to health, safety, productivity, and costs of operation. These five key areas should be considered when assessing the ergonomics of a forklift:
This includes designs and features affecting the visibility of the forklift to others and the ability of the operator to see their surroundings. Features such as a rotating seat, a wide-view mast, mirrors, cameras, and sensors assist the operator by increasing their range of vision and eliminating visual blind spots. To warn others of the forklift’s presence features such as warning safety lights and audible warnings are utilised to alert pedestrians of their proximity to the forklift.
Training your forklift drivers to position themselves appropriately when driving the forklift ensures they can hold an ergonomic posture while operating the machinery. This improves the health and safety of the operator by ensuring they can reach all the controls while in their seatbelt and continuously supporting their lower back and upper leg. Appropriate training also ensures the driver can make customisable adjustments to further support their posture, such as adjusting the seat, controls, armrest, and headrest etc.
Any sudden or jolting movements when operating a forklift are often caused by imperfect flooring, harsh accelerating, or breaking. This leads to discomfort and distraction and in worse cases whiplash.
Enforcing speed limits and ensuring that the floors are regularly maintained and repaired greatly improves forklift drivers’ experience while operating the machinery.
Forklift driver training also improves the drivers’ operational capability and ability to judge driving speeds and the best routes to avoid imperfect flooring.
To prevent muscle fatigue and musculoskeletal injuries a safety suspension system is used to dampen the effects of the vehicle’s motions and exaggerate them when need be.
By reducing the effects of vibrations and taking regular breaks to stretch operators can increase ergonomics, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury. Training will also highlight the importance of task rotation to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
Finally, clearly segregating forklift and pedestrian routes and ensuring operators maintain their forklift training certificates encourages a safety-oriented environment. Clearly marked pedestrian and forklift routes reduce the risk of accidents by limiting traffic crossover and keeping pedestrians away from blind spots and operating zones in general.
While forklift training certificates increase the operator’s confidence in their ability to operate a forklift; the safety procedures within the environment improve not only ergonomics but also safety and productivity as operators are more efficient in carrying out their duties.
Material handling ergonomics affects the long-term health and productivity of forklift operators and when well-designed they can improve the safety, productivity, and efficiency of retail or wholesale operations.
Features such as those mentioned above help to reduce the strain of the operation however, operators can also take simple measures to safeguard their health and safety, as taught in our forklift driver training course. Actions including stretching before shifts, taking regular breaks, removing wallets from the back pocket, customizing adjustable features, and wearing a seat belt are all small measures that reduce strain and improve the overall ergonomics of material handling equipment operations.
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