Thanksgiving Ergonomics: Reducing material handling injuries with engineering controlsPosted on by
If 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.
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.
 Table R1 2010, http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/ostb2825.pdf