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Ergonomic Risk Series: 3 Solutions to Make Manual Handling Safer at Work

Apr 26, 2021 | Productivity, Custom Solutions, Ergonomics

Most tasks in industrial environments involve manual handling. Safer manual handling work practices and setups can prevent or reduce injuries caused by work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD).  WMSDs account for 33% of all lost workday injuries and illnesses annually.

What is manual handling?

Manual handling includes activities such as lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and carrying. It requires the body to exert force. When the activity is performed repeatedly or the force exerted is excessive, it could become a significant ergonomic risk factor.

There are different ways to minimize manual handling hazards. Certain manual handling techniques can help alleviate strains on muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and the nervous system. So do adjustments made to where work is done. In fact, workplace design changes tend to be more effective because it doesn’t require people to change their habits.

Here are three ideas to make your manual handling safer and more efficient at work.

Equip Work Surface with Tilt, Rollers, and Ball Transfers

Lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy loads require a lot of physical effort and expose the operator to increased ergonomic risk. Back injury is one of the most common types of workplace injuries resulting from overexertion. The custom assembly workbench below was designed specifically to address these kinds of challenges.

  1. Electric height adjustability: Each operator can set the workbench to a comfortable height for themselves with a touch of a button. It encourages good postures and reduces the need to bend, stoop or twist while performing the task.
  2. Specialized work surface: The work surface is equipped with fixed inset rollers in the back and pneumatic ball transfers in the middle to assist lifting and moving of heavy items across the workbench. In addition, the top can be tilted to provide better access to the contents in the large tote/container. The tilting angle is controlled by a separate switch. A safety lip at the ball transfers section prevents the load from sliding off the table and can be lowered when no longer in use. See how it works in this short video.
  3. Tilted shelf: Large 18”x28” adjustable shelf can be tilted up to 25 degrees. It reduces wrist strain when users repeatedly reach for objects.

custom assembly workbench
Integrate with Conveyor

As mechanical aid, conveyors could free the operators of a significant amount of manual material handling by moving the materials to and away from the workstation. Here are two examples of how the workbench can be integrated seamlessly into the conveyor system.

  1. This standing workbench over the conveyor can serve as one of the stations in a progressive assembly setup. After the operator completes a specific task directly on the conveyor, the part moves on to the next station on the assembly line. No lifting, pushing, pulling, turning, and twisting is involved. It saves floor space, improves efficiency, and minimizes exposure to ergonomic risks. This custom workbench can also serve as a shipping station with easy access to task items and supplies. You can remove a section of the conveyor rollers to incorporate a drop-in scale to weigh a package as it goes through the workstation. This eliminates the need to lift the package up to the scale!
  2. The custom manual height adjustable workbench sits perpendicular next to the conveyor as a part of the assembly operation. A section of the rollers on the conveyor is replaced by pneumatic ball transfers to ease the movement of heavy load from the conveyor to the workstation. The left part of work surface is also equipped with ball transfers. Once the load lands on the workstation, the balls can be lowered making it a stable work surface for the operator to work on.

workbench conveyor
Use Mobile Aids

Trolleys, dollies, and carts can be used as aids to transport items to and from the workstation. They reduce the frequency and the distance for the operators to lift and carry things around. Some of them can also serve as additional mobile storage for easy access of materials and added efficiency.

trolley cart

We hope these ideas get you started with improving the safety and efficiency of manual handling in your own facility. Have unique situation that needs custom solutions? Our team is here to help!.

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