Material handling is made up of diverse operations, many of which are manual, including stacking and de-stacking heavy products, lugging heavy and awkward machinery, twisting loaded pallets onto storage racks, driving powered industrial trucks and more.
Material handling is a very demanding task and, if not performed correctly, can result in costly injuries or loss of productivity. Concerns such as worker fatigue, improper training, or workers overexerting themselves enter the picture during this busy time of year. Moreover, when work gets too heavy, some workers resort to rushing or they start cutting corners, resulting in fines, injuries or even death.
Here is a case about the dangers of not maintaining compliance: A shipbuilding company was fined after one of their workers died in a forklift accident. How? Workers had a tendency to leave keys in the ignition after working with a forklift. This saved the company time, because anyone who had to work with a forklift could pick any of the forklifts available and start their job. A welder with no formal forklift training drove one of the forklifts one day. Unfortunately, he crashed it into a crane-lifting beam. He was crushed between the two machines and was killed on the spot.
The Importance of Deploying Safety Measures
Most companies have material handling operations. Some operations are more work intensive than others, such as those in engineering and manufacturing industries. These jobs place unique demands on workers. As a manager or business owner, it is your duty to see that your workers perform their jobs in a safe environment. You can do this by complying with OSHA standards on material handling.
Assessing a Hazard
To address hazards on material handling operations, consider the material load, the job, the operator and the environment where the task is going to be performed. The interaction of these factors can lead to hazards and ultimately result in injuries.
Productivity and worker safety are often considered separate entities and they are even evaluated separately. However, the truth is that they are mutually dependent and they can affect overall business profitability and efficiency. Below are a few tips on how you can increase your workers’ productivity and still maintain OSHA compliance.
Use Material Handling Equipment
Material handling equipment, when utilized effectively, can give a boost to worker productivity. These machines can simplify the process and cut down labor. What’s more, they safeguard workers’ well-being by improving ergonomics and enhancing control over the material. All this combines to give greater productivity and efficiency, resulting in a better bottom line.
Take Steps to Cut Down Worker Stress
They say that stress induces productivity, but it also leads to burnout, unhappiness and even employee turnover. Stressed workers are more irritable and confrontational. They also miss deadlines more often, make more mistakes and take more leaves of absence.
Leveraging stress to increase the productivity of your workers can actually cause loss of productivity. One way to cut down work-related stress in the material handling industry – or any other industry for that matter – is to make provisions for short rest periods (at intervals) over the course of the work day.
Make Your Workers Aware of Safety Principles
Knowledge of safety principles can reduce accidents in the workplace. These include ergonomic principles, work practices, training and education. Whether your workers are moving the materials manually or mechanically, they have to be aware of potential hazards that go with the task. They should also know how they can exercise control over their work and minimize the dangers.
Train Your Workers on the Proper Way to Use Material Handling Equipment
Workers have to be properly trained in the use and limitations of material handling equipment. This includes learning how to use equipment like cranes, conveyors and slings effectively. Only competent and trained persons should be allowed to operate the machines. You can also implement a formal training program to increase awareness of material handling hazards, thus reducing them.
Hire Temporary Workers
If you employ temporary or seasonal workers to help you cope with peak production, ensure that you give them a thorough induction and that they are trained to work with your equipment. Do not forget to inform them about your site’s health and safety procedures.
Efficient material handling is important to companies. Material handling operations ensure that there is a continuous flow of assemblies, that raw material stocks are maintained and that materials are available when you need them. By implementing these standards, you can increase your productivity while still maintaining worker safety.