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Thanksgiving Ergonomics: Reducing material handling injuries with engineering controls

Posted on by Vern Putz Anderson, PhD, CPE

 

grocery3If you haven’t purchased your 20 pound Thanksgiving turkey or your 10 pound bag of potatoes rest assured employees at your local grocery stores are busy restocking the shelves each day with your favorite Thanksgiving foods. It‘s hard enough lifting those items into your cart but what about the workers who haul those tons of turkeys, pounds of potatoes, and stock the shelves with green beans, cranberries, and stuffing? Nearly 2.5 million cashiers and stocking clerks are at risk for musculoskeletal injuries that stem from overexertion in grocery stores. According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute, overexertion is the leading cause of workplace injuries and account for $14.2 billion in direct costs. In the grocery sector, overexertion injuries that lead to soft tissue injuries, A.K.A. musculoskeletal disorders, account for 41% of the injuries and lost work in grocery stores[1].

One way to prevent these injuries is by using mechanical assist devices such as powered pallet movers, height-adjusted conveyors, and powered adjustable handcarts. A new document from NIOSH, Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers: Prevention of Material Handling Injuries in the Grocery Sector, illustrates the use of mechanical assist devices for reducing manual materials handling injuries in retail grocery work.  These devices prevent injury and can help reduce the impact of aging  allowing  older workers to stay on their jobs even with physical limitations.

This booklet provides illustrations of employees in a retail grocery store using mechanical assist devices to perform material handling tasks. For each task, there are multiple devices that can be used. The document was inspired by a NIOSH/CalOSHA booklet, Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling (2007-131).

Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers was designed to show employers the types of mechanical assist devices that help prevent injuries that can result in pain and impairment for workers, and workers’ compensation costs for management, and to show workers how to use the devices. The booklet does not address costs of investing in these devices. In an article in Progressive Grocer, “Computing Cost-effective Solutions for the Supermarket,” I present a quick five-step guide to identify the factors that will help evaluate cost and benefit, and to arrive at cost effective solutions.

Is your workplace using mechanical assist devices? Please tell us about your experience in the comment below.

Vern Putz Anderson, PhD, CPE

Dr. Anderson is the NIOSH  Wholesale and Retail Trade Sector Coordinator.

 

 

[1] Table R1 2010, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/ostb2825.pdf

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Vern Putz Anderson, PhD, CPE

22 comments on “Thanksgiving Ergonomics: Reducing material handling injuries with engineering controls”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Yes, This very true. In “Does Safety Training Reduce Work Injury in the United States?” published in The Ergonomics Open Journal [Waehrer and Miller 2009] the authors noted that “overexertion injuries were resistant to training…” highlighting the need to use other interventions instead of relying on training alone to protect workers.

    Engineering is so fascinating to me. It really seems like a different part of the brain that “regular” people do not use – especially me! The way that people come up with different things really makes me think, how did I not think of that? But then of course, I never do! Thanks for sharing this interesting research on this topic! I’ll be sure to check back.

    This is very good information just before thanksgiving. I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all. I also have Happy thanksgiving wishes and related information. So have a happy an blasted thanksgiving with your family and friends. Enjoy.

    thanks god now i can buy my own turkey for thanksgiving haha
    this is very good information from this website and this can helped me out from searching information about thanksgiving, thanks wish you all the best 😀

    Thanks for this article. The best way to avoid injury is prevention and training, I work as a carpenter and in my company we know how to work correctly.

    I am very pleased to hear of your focus on prevention and training. Certainly, with training, workers who focus on the prevention of injuries are going to be more aware of the many hazards that pose a risk for a lifting injury. However, even with training, employees who do their best to avoid the hazards associated with material handling tasks may find themselves in a job situation that pushes the limits of their lifting capacity often due to the repetitive requirements of the lifting task and/or from the location of the materials to be lift, where unusual bending and twisting may occur. In those cases, having a second person to alternate with or help to reduce the stresses on the body may be the best solution. Such challenging lifting jobs, at a minimum would require more frequent rest pauses to allow the muscles and soft tissues time to recover between subsequent lifts

    thank you very much for the information you have provided this
    news that you give very helpful at all
    Greetings and best wishes always.

    This is very good information just before thanksgiving. I would like to wish Happy Thanks giving to all. I also have Happy thanksgiving wishes and related information.

    I had no idea that so many workers were injured during the holidays due to carrying heavy things! It sounds to me like it is a really good idea to get machines to help carry these things. Being able to rely on machines to do the really heavy lifting is definitely a much better idea in my opinion. Then workers don’t have to worry so much about hurting themselves, but can still get the job done without too much problem!

    this helped me out from searching information about thanksgiving, It sounds to me like it is a really good idea to get machines to help carry these things.

    Good information to know and right to the point. Thanks for this well written post, i’ll follow up for more updates if you keep posting them.

    Engineering is so fascinating to me. It really seems like a different part of the brain that “regular” people do not use – especially me! The way that people come up with different things really makes me think, how did I not think of that? But then of course, I never do! Thanks for sharing this interesting research on this topic! I’ll be sure to check back.

    It’s important to remember that you cannot prevent back pain by teaching workers to lift “correctly”. It’s much better to use machines as much as possible. That’s what the evidence says quite clearly.

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