Worker ergonomics is a crucial part of many warehouses these days, and an oft-overlooked area of ergonomic improvement is the Loading Dock.
The loading dock is one of the busiest areas in any given warehouse and may have the largest concentration of work being done in the entire area. Much like any other area where repetitive tasks are performed and repetitive motions are being done, providing ergonomic and health considerations for your workers is key to maintaining a safe work environment.
Due to the nature of the work being performed, however, ergonomics here requires a lot more than providing everyone a breakroom and weight belts. Read on for a few tips to provide a more ergonomic loading dock to your shipping/receiving staff and keep everyone working healthier and safer:
The biggest step in providing a more ergonomic workplace is to reduce the Strain on your staff caused by repetitive tasks. One of the fastest ways to do this is to ensure every installation they need to use is waist-level or higher to avoid back and shoulder strain. For anything you use to move or store products, like wire shelving or gravity flow racks, try to keep them about waist-high and don’t make your shelving too tall unless it’s something that’s only accessed by forklifts. This will ease some of the strain from repetitive motions and reduce the risk of injury overall.
Prevent reaching and stooping
In a similar way, by forcing your staff to reach over too far or too high, or having to bend over at awkward angles can lead to a lot of spinal strain and potential injury. Once all the heights are standardized, you then need to set guidelines for how things can be stored.
Avoid keeping items atop one another to prevent over-reach (and minimize the risk of them falling on a worker). Make sure the lowest shelves, even on something like pallet racks, are used to store overflow items and not something that needs to be accessed more frequently. Even if an item isn’t staying in the shipping area that long, keeping it within arm’s reach will go a long way towards preventing injury and improving ergonomics across the board.
Prioritize item placement
How long an item is stored somewhere can have just as much of an impact as where an item is stored. Review your current shipping and receiving procedures and start to figure out if there’s a better way to store and keep your items.
Is there an overflow storage area for items that aren’t going out as quickly? Those items could be kept up higher or lower since they’re not accessed as frequently as the others and would cause less strain on workers’ arms and shoulders. More frequently shipped items, or items that aren’t going to stay in the receiving area as long should be kept at an easier-accessed height, perhaps away from the long-term items, to make retrieval easier on the body.
Reduce travel time
Finally, the length of time it takes to move items between areas can affect back and leg strain by requiring too much travelling between areas to drop off products, not to mention the decrease in productivity caused by lengthy handling times.
Review your current procedures and get an idea of where your inventory goes after the shipment is received—do you send items straight to their locations, or do they need to stay in the receiving area while the shipment is processed? This may require the use of more gravity conveyors to move items more quickly to an area better equipped to handle the flow of products. Reduce the amount of foot travel your workers and products need to take throughout the warehouse and you’ll find your staff working better and with less strain than before.
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