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The assessment tool chosen for this paper is the NIOSH Lifting Equation for Single Tasks. This tool is often used by occupational health and safety professionals for assessing manual material handling risks “associated with lifting and lowering tasks in the workplace” (Middlesworth, n.d.b, para. 1). In order to use the NIOSH equation, it is imperative to follow these steps:
- Determining task variables is required. The job task of lifting consists of a starting point (origin) and the ending point (destination) (Middlesworth, n.d.b).
- Measuring and recording task variables, which include the horizontal distance at the origin of the lift and the horizontal distance at the destination, the height of the lift origins and the height of the lift at the destination, the travel distance between the origin and destination, etc. (Middlesworth, n.d.b).
- Conducting a risk assessment using the NIOSH lifting equation calculator.
When using the NIOSH lifting equation calculator in a specific system, no adaptations should be made. The system chosen for the analysis is the warehouse of a large aircraft parts manufacturer. The assessment tool was selected for identifying any possible risks associated with manual handling of stored products. It is expected that the usage of the assessment tool will subsequently reduce the identified risks and allow the employees of the warehouse to exercise their full potential.
The warehouse chosen for the ergonomic risk assessment is a commercial building that an aircraft parts manufacturer uses for the storage of goods. It has both manual handling systems that include human workers (for smaller parts) and automated systems for handling larger parts. For warehouse management, workers use Windward System Five, which is complete Inventory Management Software designed for tracking, increasing productivity, and reducing the flow of paper documentation (Windward Software, 2017). The environmental characteristics of the manufacturer’s warehouse are the following:
- Indoor facility in a rural area, equipped with a large parking lot for enhanced logistics;
- Bright lighting to ensure visibility at all times of the day;
- Preservation of the same temperature inside the warehouse to ensure staff’s comfort;
- Low noise levels due to the rural location.
The key task of the warehouse is associated with the smooth operation of the supply chain that ends with delivering the desired product to its customers.
Current Controls for Reducing Ergonomic Risks
Currently, the warehouse implements solutions for Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders Outlined by NIOSH, Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling, and Solutions for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries. Moreover, the management focuses on following the hierarchy of controls over musculoskeletal disorders, which consists of elimination, equipment change, job rotation & schedule, work instruction & coaching, and other measures (Humantech, Inc., 2016). The introduction of the NIOSH Lifting Equation for Lifting and Lowering Tasks will become a useful contribution to the workplace program targeted at the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among the workers of the warehouse (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).
Findings: Pros and Cons
If to mention the positive points of ergonomic risk management in the warehouse, it is important to state that the overall environment can be considered as positive for the work of employees. Moreover, the integration of automated tools allows employees to perform less manual tasks when handling large and heavy objects. On the other hand, a storage warehouse is a stressful environment where employees are forced to perform tasks as quickly as possible in order to meet the established deadlines. Such pressure can lead to traumas associated with lifting and handling goods.
In order to mitigate the hazards of possible traumas, it is recommended to use the NIOSH Lifting Equation for Single Tasks for conducting risk assessments and developing a plan for their reduction. Reduction of workplace risk factors linked to lifting can be achieved through the following steps:
- Reduction of awkward postures, highly repetitive motions, and forceful exertions (Middlesworth, n.d.a).
- They are making sure that the members of the team are included in a pre-shift warm-up. The introduction of these work readiness systems will ensure that employees are physically ready for their lifting and lowering tasks in the warehouse.
- They are ensuring appropriate body mechanics and work techniques. This step can be achieved by educating employees on how to use their body mechanics to avoid additional MSD hazards effectively.
Role of Stress and Fatigue
Different stressors, such as long duration of physical and mental effort, can have an adverse impact on the overall condition of employees (Reimann & Guzy, 2017). If they are not provided with adequate work conditions that account for their needs, it is highly likely that workers will experience increased stress and fatigue, especially when it comes to manual tasks. Climate, light, noise, and workstation design are all factors that can either increase or decrease the possibility of ergonomic risks.
Hazardous fatigue in a warehouse setting will decrease employees’ performance and lead to possible trauma due to lack of awareness, memory lapses, and absent-mindedness (HSE, n.d.). For this reason, it will be potentially beneficial to introduce the NIOSH Lifting Equation for Single Tasks to reduce worker’s fatigue and increase their operations.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). A primer based on workplace evaluations of musculoskeletal disorders. Web.
HSE. (n.d.). Human factors: Fatigue. Web.
Humantech, Inc. (2016). Hierarchy of controls for musculoskeletal disorders. Web.
Middlesworth, M. (n.d.a). 5 manual material handling tips for safer work performance. Web.
Middlesworth, M. (n.d.b). A step-by-step guide to using the NIOSH Lifting Equation for Single Tasks. Web.
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Reimann, M., & Guzy, J. (2017). Psychological contract breach and employee health: The relevance of unmet obligations for mental and physical health. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 33(1), 1-11.
Windward Software. (2017). About us. Web.