Good ergonomic conditions are essential to a safe and conductive working environment. A workplace that is not ergonomically designed, on the other hand, is prone to worker injuries. There is a relation between ergonomics and material flow at the workplace. The material flow can be designed in such a way that it is ergonomic for the workers, handlers, and operators. Let’s take a look to find out how you can improve ergonomics and material flow at your workplace.
Improvements at the workplace
Making ergonomic improvements at the workplace by way of engineering controls is the first step to improving ergonomics. By identifying and eliminating various risk factors in the workplace, you can reduce accidents/hazards. The physical changes made at the workplace should be in tandem with ergonomic work practices. There are various factors you need to assess the ergonomics of the workplace:
- The work surfaces should be at the right height of the task and the user to reduce bending or reaching.
- The design of workstations should be such that it can accommodate the users being as comfortable and safely close to equipment/task as possible.
- The frequency of manual heavy lifting should be reduced. The lifting should be done within the “lifting safety zone” – elbow to knuckle height.
Changes in workflow
The workflow of the facility should be in line with ergonomic work practices. Some of the changes that could be made to the workflow are:
- Tools and parts that are most frequently used must be within easy reach of the workers. The location of storage must be according to usage.
- Material handling equipment should be installed in a way that promotes safe handling of materials.
- The workflow must be such that the distance of travel by workers is reduced. This improves ergonomics as well as saving time.
Efficient material handling
The key to workplace ergonomics in factories and warehouses is an efficient material handling system. Having the right equipment for the job ensures high productivity along with worker safety. The focus of the material handling system should be to reduce tasks such as manual lifting, lowering or carrying heavy loads, and manual handling of individual containers. Replacing manual lifting, carrying, pushing, or dragging materials with efficient transportation devices such as conveyors, cranes and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) will significantly improve ergonomics. For positioning of loads, devices such as the AirLift inline vertical lifter or an air balancer should be used.
Better work practices
There are several work practices to ensure better ergonomics at a manufacturing facility. One of them is job rotation, which induces variety in the kind of tasks performed by the workers as they take on more duties, enlarging the physical demands, and adding variety to the job. Another practice is pre-shift stretching and warm-up exercises, which significantly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries by reducing fatigue, improving muscular balance and posture, and improving muscle coordination.
An important factor in improving workplace ergonomics is educating employees on proper lifting techniques. They should be trained on the benefits of ergonomic practices and learn musculoskeletal self-care best practices.
Material handling devices such as articulating jib cranes, industrial manipulators, and AirLift inline vertical lifters greatly help improve workplace ergonomics. The right employment of these devices along with the above-mentioned practices will make your workplace into an ergonomic one.