The NIOSH booklet illustrates several pieces of equipment to help workers in grocery warehouses and similar facilities avoid lifting and awkward motion injuries.

New NIOSH Booklet Aids Retailers on Ergonomics

According to NIOSH, equipment showcased in it “may also support a retailer’s growing internet sales that depend on moving large quantities of merchandise often with fewer employees.”

A new, 24-page booklet1 from NIOSH uses illustrations to show how and where employees in a retail setting could use mechanical assist devices to lift, push, or pull heavy materials.

The devices reduce bending motions and excessive reach, it states, illustrating the use of vacuum lifts, fixed and height-adjustable conveyors, powered pallet movers and battery-powered pallet stackers, manual pallet jacks, handcarts, turntables, and stocking carts by grocery, warehouse, storage facility, and soft drink delivery workers.

"Data has shown us that not only do musculoskeletal injuries result in time away from work across all industry sectors, but data shows that they affect workers in the wholesale and retail trade at a higher rate. This new resource is an invaluable tool for workers in this industry to help decrease injuries and increase productivity," NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard when the agency posted it in January 2015.

The agency reported Bureau of Labor Statistics data show musculoskeletal injuries account for approximately 30 percent of occupational injuries that result in time away from work, and that laborers and freight, stock, and material movers experience the highest number of overexertion injuries. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Nov. 21, 2014, at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh2.pdf.) Their injuries often involve strains and sprains to the lower back, shoulders, and upper limbs.

The new publication was inspired by a NIOSH/Cal/OSHA booklet, "Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling,"2 that was produced when stakeholders in the wholesale and retail trade sector recognized the need for informational materials showing interventions in work settings that were familiar to employers and employees, according to the agency’s news release.

The booklet includes a page listing OSHA and NIOSH source material about preventing manual material handling injuries. The documents listed include the "Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling" and five others:

This ETool is concise and useful; it addresses the hazards that can be associated with heavy containers, inadequate handholds, plastic wrapping, wooden pallets, manual pallet wrapping, and opening boxes with razor knives or cutters. The tool includes possible solutions, such as asking suppliers to use lighter plastic pallets, working with suppliers to provide product in smaller and lighter containers, using ergonomic cutters, automatic pallet wrapping machines or lighter rolls if wrapping must be done manually.

According to NIOSH, the equipment showcased in the new booklet "may also support a retailer's growing internet sales that depend on moving large quantities of merchandise often with fewer employees."

References
1. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2015-100/

2. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-131/

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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