Looking to get a better grip on safety? October is Global Ergonomics Month, and it is well worth embracing as an annual event for your health and wellness programs. Participation can help boost your corporate safety culture while at the same time keeping your team mindful of emerging activities and their potential ergonomics risks, such as the impact of Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the largest cause of lost workdays to employers. A successful ergonomics program, one designed to fit work to people rather than trying to fit people to work, is critical to reducing risks associated with MSDs.
Here are some ideas for making the most of Global Ergonomics Month:
- Promote October as Global Ergonomics Month. Create a buzz by announcing any special activities planned for the month at staff meetings as well as on notice boards.
- Discuss Ergonomic Success. Ask a few staff members to reflect on your past ergonomic success stories at gatherings. When risks are eliminated through simple changes, they quickly are absorbed as part of "business as usual" and the old ways are soon forgotten. Think back to improvements that have made an impact on your operation, and have staff members reflect on what they have meant. For example, adjustable height work surfaces, anti-fatigue mats, or the stocking of the fastest moving items on most comfortably accessible shelves are now mostly taken for granted, but such was not always the case.
- Review MSD Signs and Symptoms. Use the event as an opportunity to review MSD signs and symptoms with staff members, and have them consider if there are risks in their jobs that should be addressed. Look for easy-to-implement solutions such as padding sharp corners, or in the distribution center, positioning heavy products such as potatoes atop a short stack of pallets to minimize the need for bending. If some boxes have sharp staples or are problematic to handle, communicate back through your buying department to vendors and take steps to correct the issue.
- Discover New Opportunities for Improvement. Challenge your occupational health and safety committee to look for less obvious opportunities for improvement. Is there a pattern of evidence from first aid visits that suggests a need to undertake an ergonomics review for a particular task? Alternately, is there a particular job that people keep looking to leave as soon as another position becomes available, and that always needs to be replaced? Consider if there is a way to make the undesirable job more attractive.
- Perform an Assessment. Take stock of new activities and processes in your workplace, and perform an ergonomics assessment as required. For example, with the growth of e-commerce, some retailers have recently begun picking customer orders in the store for home delivery. Do the carts used for picking provide a sound ergonomic solution, or is a lot of bending required? Are plastic totes used to hold customer orders well designed with hand grips to provide ease of lifting and safe stacking?
- Use RPCs for Perishable Products. Think about requesting RPCs instead of corrugated containers for perishable products. RPCs are designed with hand holds to facilitate ease of handling at every touch point from the grower, to warehouse and to retail. With their modular design they create a stable load, and because the emptied RPCs are collapsed and stacked for return to the RPC service center, one can eliminate the repetitive task of cutting boxes and feeding them into the baler. RPCs not only improve your safety program, but they can help better protect product quality while improving productivity and sustainability outcomes.
With a stronger ergonomics awareness program, your company will be able to build a more efficient and profitable supply chain to better meet the needs of your customers and the world.