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workplace safety

Feb 18, 2009

Risk Factors Linked to Pulling Tasks

Injuries from pushing and, particularly, pulling tasks cost U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars each year, yet are largely preventable when ergonomic equipment and ergonomic practices are introduced into the workplace. In our last post, we talked about how these two common work tasks place workers at risk for potentially debilitating musculoskeletal injuries. Today, we take a closer look at the risk factors associated with pulling heavy carts and equipment.

One-handed pulling tasks. When facing the direction of travel, pulling must be done one-handed, significantly decreasing the operator’s control of the load. The worker must stretch his arm out behind him and twist his body unnaturally to face the direction of travel. This places undue strain on the back, shoulder, arm and wrist muscles, increasing the chance injury.

Changing direction or maneuvering a wheeled cart while pulling it behind you with one hand is not only awkward and difficult, it focuses pressure on wrist, elbow and shoulder joints and on the tender muscles of the lower back, increasing muscle strain to dangerous levels. There is also danger that the operator may lose control of the load, particularly when on inclined grades. If the cart “overruns” the operator, there is risk of additional injury to the operator or others in the cart’s path.

Two-handed pulling tasks. When using two hands to pull a load, the operator must walk backwards, facing away from the direction of travel. Pulling places significant stress on the arm, shoulder and wrist muscles. While using two hands allows the operator to maintain better control over the cart, particularly when maneuvering around turns or in tight spaces, the inability to see the travel path invites disaster.

Facing away from his direction of travel, the operator remains unaware of obstacles in his path. He cannot prepare for dips or rough spots in the travel path that can affect his balance or the balance of the equipment he is pulling. He remains unaware of traffic sharing the same path, inviting collision.

The risk of stumbling and being overrun by the equipment he is pulling is increased when the operator is facing away from his direction of travel. Constantly looking over his shoulder twists the body, increasing strain on lower back, shoulders, arm, wrist and neck muscles and inviting injury.

Preventing injury from pulling tasks. DJ Products’ ergonomically-designed, motorized carts, tugs and movers take the strain out of pulling tasks. Battery operation allows a single worker to move loads without physical effort. Walk-behind design allows a full view of the path ahead, guaranteeing maximum operator control and safety. For more information about our full line of ergonomically-designed carts, tugs, and movers, visit the DJ Products website.

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Feb 16, 2009

Anatomy of Push-Pull Tasks: Placing the Body at Risk

Pushing and pulling tasks are daily life occurrences, particularly, in the workplace. Because of the extreme stress these two forces exert on the body and the frequency with which push-pull tasks must be performed, pushing and pulling result in an extraordinarily high number of musculoskeletal injuries each year. These injuries, which cost U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars annually, are largely preventable when ergonomic practices and ergonomically-designed equipment are introduced into the workplace.

Surprisingly, it’s not the weight of the load that makes push-pull tasks so physically demanding, it’s the horizontal push force needed to initiate and sustain movement that places the greatest strain on the human body. In order to overcome natural inertia, tremendous force must be applied to initiate motion of a cart or piece of heavy equipment. As the operator strains against inertia, he must exert extraordinary force to start the cart or piece of equipment moving. In his exertions, the operator places unusual strain on the muscles and tendons of his legs, back, shoulders, arms and wrists. Pressure decreases as the load begins rolling as less force is needed to keep a moving load in motion. However, every time the operator must stop and restart motion, for example to onload or offload parts at a workstation or turn a corner or maneuver through a tight space, he must again exert the extraordinary force necessary to overcome inertia, risking serious musculoskeletal injury each time.

Of the two methods used to move carts and pieces of heavy equipment, pushing is always preferable to pulling. Pulling places greater strain on the body than pushing. It forces the worker to assume positions that minimize the application of force and increase the risk of injury. There are two ways to pull a load: using one hand and facing the direction of travel or using two hands but walking backward and facing away from the direction of travel. Both are problematic and increase the risk of operator injury. Next time we’ll talk about the specific risks involved in each type of pulling task.

The severe strain placed on the body when pulling and maneuvering heavy loads or heavy equipment is eliminated with the use of DJ Products’ ergonomically-designed, motorized carts, tugs and movers. DJ Products’ motorized carts and movers allow operators to safely and without effort move and maneuver carts and equipment with just one hand. DJ Products’ walk-behind design guarantees maximum operator control and safety with full view of the path ahead. Visit the DJ Products’ website for more information about our full line of ergonomically-designed carts, tug and movers.

Next time: Risk factors in pulling tasks

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Feb 13, 2009

Ergonomics: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying tasks place a greater strain on the human body’s soft tissues — muscles and tendons — than any other workplace tasks. Universal to nearly every work environment, these tasks are the source of musculoskeletal injuries that annually cost U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars. Fortunately, most of these injuries are preventable. The debilitating and disabling strains and sprains that annually plague millions of U.S. workers can be largely prevented with the adoption of ergonomic practices and the use of ergonomically-designed equipment.

Workers come in all shapes and sizes, but work tasks and equipment are usually “one size fits all.” Most workplace musculoskeletal injuries occur when workers are forced to adapt their bodies to fit the task or equipment, torquing their bodies into awkward postures that increase stress on muscles and tendons. For example, when pushing, pulling or maneuvering a heavy wheeled cart, a worker must exert significant force to overcome rolling resistance. While handholds designed to assist in force delivery may be at the correct level for an average-sized male, even an averaged-sized female worker will have to stretch and strain to move the cart, placing undue stress on back, leg, shoulder and arm muscles. The risk of musculoskeletal injury is great when worker and equipment are not a perfect fit.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting the equipment or task to the capabilities of the worker to prevent musculoskeletal injury. Ergonomically-designed equipment, like the powered carts and movers designed and manufactured by DJ Products, takes into account a host of variables that affect worker production and efficiency. The type of task, force required, worker gender and diversity, optimal handhold height, distance, and frequency of the task must all be considered in the design of ergonomic equipment.

DJ Products is a major innovator in the design and manufacture of ergonomic solutions to material handling situations. Our ergonomically-designed electric and motorized carts, tugs and movers eliminate the strains and pains associated with manually pushing and pulling heavy carts, equipment or materials in a wide variety of industrial and retail environments. Our products are less costly, smaller and more maneuverable than traditional electric equipment used to move carts and equipment on production floors and in warehouses. Our battery-powered walk-behind movers provide maximum operator control and safety while offering superior maneuverability, even in narrow or tight spaces like busy hospital corridors and crowded grocery aisles. As a leading manufacturer of ergonomic powered carts and movers, DJ Products has built a reputation for developing ergonomic solutions to unique and specialized customer material handling challenges. Contact our ergonomic sales engineers today for an evaluation of your ergonomic needs.

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Feb 11, 2009

Pushmi-Pullyu Mentality Increases Workplace Injury

Remember the Pushmi-pullyu (push-me-pull-you) from Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Dolittle stories for children? It was an antelope with two heads, one on each end of its body. (In the popular Eddie Murphy movies, they used a llama.) Whenever the creature wanted to move, both heads would take off at once, pushing and pulling back and forth and going nowhere. Since pushing and pulling exert two of the greatest stresses on the body, the poor critter must have been in constant need of the good doctor’s chiropractic skills! That same Pushmi-pullyu mentality toward workplace task and equipment design can put your employees at serious risk of sustaining disabling musculoskeletal injuries.

Pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying tasks place a greater strain on the human body’s soft tissues — muscles and tendons — than any other tasks. These tasks are also universal to nearly all work environments. Wheeled carts, platforms or equipment must be loaded and unloaded and pushed and pulled through manufacturing plants, distribution centers, hospital corridors, grocery store aisles, hotel hallways, office buildings and retail establishments. Most jobs require at least occasional pushing, pulling, lifting or carrying; and many jobs require workers to spend their entire workday engaged in these activities, performing the same, repetitive movements hour after hour. The cumulative wear and tear on the body can lead to serious injury of soft tissues and eventual disability.

Too often tasks, work spaces and equipment aren’t designed to accommodate the natural differences in the size and physical capabilities of workers. A task performed first shift by a six-foot, 180-pound, 25-year-old male may be performed second shift by a five-foot three-inch, 130-pound, 45-year-old female and third shift by a five-foot seven-inch, 260-pound, 60-year-old male. Because work tasks and equipment are usually designed around a “standard” worker type — which, unfortunately, few workers match — most workers are forced to assume awkward postures while exerting force to complete work tasks. Serious, debilitating strains and sprains can result, particularly when these actions are repeated over time.

When soft tissues in the arms, shoulders, back and legs are injured, the tissues recover, though it may take some time. But repeated injury, particularly when it occurs before tissues have had time to fully recover, interferes with the body’s natural healing process, overwhelming the body’s ability to recover and leading to permanent, disabling injury. Such cumulative traumas are called musculoskeletal disorders. Also referred to as repetitive stress injuries and repetitive motion injuries, these serious, disabling strains and sprains cost U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars each year.

Next time: Ergonomics; just what the doctor ordered.

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Jan 09, 2009

Obama’s Mandate to Transform America

“The deepening recession creates the opportunity for federal intervention and government experimentation on a scale unseen since the New Deal,” wrote Charles Krauthammer in a column for the Washington Post Writers Group that was widely published last month. Krauthammer is one of many Beltway watchers who have been predicting “a domestic transformation as grand as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s” once President-elect Obama takes the oath of office barely a week and a half from now. Krauthammer believes that Obama’s statement, “This painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people,” presages what will become the key thrust of the new president’s administration: the transformation of America from the ground up.

It’s hard to argue with Krauthammer’s view, particularly given the details about the President-elect’s economic stimulus plan and jobs initiative that are beginning to trickle into the press. As Krauthammer points out, the current situation is a community organizer’s dream and that’s always been Obama’s self view. He sees himself as a world changer but it’s his own world he most wants to change. He’s got Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates on board to keep the dogs of war at bay so he can focus his energies on rebuilding America.

The economic meltdown and jobs crisis have given Obama the public mandate to foment massive changes in governmental policy. People are clamoring for help and looking to Obama to provide it. A definitive win in November and the healthy Democratic majorities that rode into the House and Senate on Obama’s coattails gave him the political mandate and clout to drive new policies through Congress. The massive bailout funds already approved, with another huge chunk of money on the way, put at Obama’s disposal what Krauthammer calls “the greatest pot of money in galactic history.” Combined, current social, economic and political forces would seem to give Obama almost unlimited power to effect change.

That change is certain to increase regulation, government oversight and red tape. Bush administration regulations that critics say weakened the EPA and OSHA at the expense of environmental responsibility and worker safety are expected to be rescinded by Obama’s team in favor of measures that place the burden of responsibility and expense of accountability back on the doorsteps of manufacturers and American business owners.

Next time: Rolling with the punches; taking a proactive approach to coming change.

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Dec 17, 2008

Material Handling Industry Moving to Clean, Green Electric Carts

“Cleaner, greener, smarter.” That’s how John Teresko characterized the material handling industry’s shift to electric battery-powered vehicles in a recent online article on Industry Week. “While the continuing transition to electric battery-powered lift trucks may suggest only environmental concern, the trend is really part of a broader search for new levels of performance and productivity,” he said. Over the past decade sales of electric trucks have gradually overtaken and surpassed sales of internal combustion models. The move to electric power is the most significant, most evident trend in the material handling industry.

While Teresko happened to be writing about forklift trucks, the move to clean-energy, electric battery-powered carts and tugs is universal across the landscape of the material handling industry. Fueled by a growing concern for the environment and skyrocketing fossil fuel costs, savvy businessmen have been trading in their gas- and diesel-powered vehicles in favor of cleaner, cheaper-to-operate electric battery-powered equipment. With the capacity to operate a full shift without recharge, electric battery-powered material handling equipment provides significant energy savings without any loss of productivity.

What Teresko didn’t mention is that forward-thinking manufacturers and business owners are moving away from forklifts altogether in favor of cheaper, more versatile, more efficient, safer, ergonomically-designed powered carts and movers. Heralding the next significant shift in the material handling industry, manufacturers are replacing forklifts with highly maneuverable powered movers that allow greater flexibility of use. Their smaller size and ability to maneuver in tight spaces and highly trafficked areas allow motorized carts and powered cart movers to be employed in a wide variety of tasks, increasing the flexibility and versatility of your material handling equipment resources.

Receiving equal consideration is the appallingly high accident/injury rate associated with forklifts. Ergonomically-designed powered carts, tugs and movers have a proven track record of reducing accidents and musculoskeletal injuries. Switching to ergonomically designed electric battery-powered movers results in a significant savings in medical, insurance, disability and workers’ compensation costs and has been proven to reduce absenteeism and lost man-hours. Investment costs are routinely recouped in the first year after purchase. Ergonomically-designed electric battery-powered material handling equipment is the industry’s next most important trend and savvy business owners are getting onboard.

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Nov 10, 2008

Election Ushers in Era of ‘Ergobamanomics’

In the wake of Barack Obama’s election, U.S. industry should brace itself for a re-emphasis on ergonomics in the workplace. We are about to enter the era of “Ergobamanomics,” predicts senior editor Austin Weber, coining the phrase in his November 6 post on AssemblyBlog, a function of Assembly magazine which serves the manufacturing product assembly market.

“We’re going to have a government that makes sure workers aren’t put at unnecessary risk,” Obama said while stumping on the campaign trail this summer. It seems likely that increased federal emphasis on the development and implementation of ergonomics standards and legislation will be part of the Obama administration’s plan to revitalize and improve U.S. industry. In numerous studies, ergonomics has been proven to significantly reduce workplace injuries and improve worker health and safety.

While workplace health and safety policy changes may not be immediate — president-elect Obama will, after all, have his hands full with more pressing problems in the first few months of his presidency — a solid Democratic majority in Congress makes it likely that tighter ergonomic standards will see quick passage in the near future. Some industry experts believe that a return to the OSHA standards of the Clinton administration could easily be enacted by Congress within the first six months of the new Obama administration.

The sweeping OSHA ergonomics changes ushered in by the Clinton administration in 2000 were quickly repealed by Republicans when George Bush took office in 2001. OSHA’s scaled-back ergonomics plan of 2002 revised the controversial Clinton-era regulations to focus primarily on the reduction of repetitive stress injuries. During his 2004 Senate campaign, Obama said he supported reviving the more comprehensive Clinton OSHA ergonomic standards. During his presidential campaign, Obama has repeatedly promised to renew the government’s commitment to improving the health and safety of all American workers.

Critics fear that a return to Clinton-era OSHA ergonomics standards would place an additional onerous burden on struggling American businesses. Tighter ergonomics standards could necessitate retooling and restructuring of production tasks. Training programs would have to be developed and executed. Increased record-keeping of repetitive stress and musculoskeletal complaints and injuries would also add to time-consuming paperwork and reporting demands, critics charge.

Despite industry fears, ergonomically-designed equipment and work procedures have the proven capacity to increase production efficiency and substantially cut injury rates. Results are both immediate and long-term, resulting in instantaneous and sustained reductions in medical, insurance, workers compensation and lost work hours while reaping considerable gains in worker satisfaction, production efficiency and improved product quality and customer service.

For more information on how ergonomically-designed equipment can improve your business, talk to the experts at DJ Products

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Sep 01, 2008

Ignoring Ergonomics Exacts High Financial Toll

In our last post, we noted that Michigan has proposed regulations that would mandate ergonomic training and penalize employers for ignoring repetitive-stress injuries. While cognizant of the health and safety benefits to their workers, employers are understandably concerned about the cost. What they may fail to realize is that the cost of implementing and maintaining an ergonomic program pales in comparison to the exorbitant costs of ignoring ergonomics.

The annual price tag for workplace injury and illness is estimated at $171 billion. Back injuries, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-stress injuries result in decreased productivity, poor product quality, increased medical costs, higher insurance payments, inflated workers’ compensation costs, low morale and high absenteeism. According to an American Medical Association study, 6,500 people die from workplace injuries each year and non-fatal injuries afflict another 13.2 million. The total cost of workplace injuries is nearly equal to the combined annual profits of America’s 20 largest companies.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Workers’ compensation claims cost U.S. businesses $60 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. More than 25% of those claims are for back injuries from repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing and straining, reports the National Council on Compensation Insurance. Back injuries, which involve lengthy and costly treatment, affect more than 1.75 million workers each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA estimates that 1 in 5 disabling worker injuries is a back injury. Back injuries alone cost American businesses more than $12 million in lost workdays and $1 billion in compensation costs each year. The estimated time-lost cost for a single injury is $26,000.

Numerous studies have proved that ergonomically-designed equipment and systems can significantly decrease worker injury. Many manual tasks necessary during the handling of materials require repetitive motions — pushing, pulling, bending, lifting and carrying — that place undue strain on the human body. These actions can result in sprains, strains, back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Installing ergonomically designed pushers, pullers and carts can save thousands of dollars a year in decreased medical, insurance and disability costs resulting from repetitive-stress musculoskeletal injuries. Implementing ergonomic practices in the workplace can improve worker morale considerably while increasing efficiency and productivity significantly. Retraining staff to utilize recognized ergonomic practices generally produces an immediate savings in reduced worker injuries and associated medical costs.

DJ Products specializes in providing affordable ergonomic solutions to material handling applications. Our highly trained staff can assist you in assessing your material handling needs and design ergonomic solutions tailored to the specific needs of your business.  For more information, visit the DJ Products website.

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