Material handling can be referred to as the movement, control, protection, and storage of products and materials throughout processing, warehousing, distribution, utilization, and finally disposal. Material handling as a process includes an extensive variety of manual and fully automated systems and equipment although in some instances it may require semi-automated equipment. The equipment and systems support logistics and ensure the conveyor system of material handling process is operational.
According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the year 2014 witnessed a relative rise in the number of non-fatal occupational injuries in the storage and warehousing sector (NAICS code 493) with an average of 5.2 cases for every 100 employees. Of these, 1.7 employees had to take off days and 1.9 workers were forced to work with restrictions or transferred to other job categories.
It is evident that measures must be taken to improve the safety of workers in the material handling process. Some of the measures that can be taken include:
Training the staff
Even a highly experienced and skilled employee should be given instructions to ensure he/she meets the expectations of how the job should be done. As an employer, if you know of certain techniques and strategies that can make the process of material handling safer to workers, be sure to share with them. The habit of counting on the use of common sense to keep the employees safe is obviously not sufficient. Investing in training and in-service training is the surest way to improving worker safety.
Provision of right tools and equipment
In many instances, injuries are as a result of using inappropriate tools and equipment. Tools that are in poor condition or are not meant for that task can cause serious harm or expose the employees to serious danger. As an employer, there is the need to invest in the right tools to enable efficiency because sick employees reduce productivity.
Occasionally, when sales go beyond the production capacity, some employers may be tempted to carry out quick hiring. However, this is not the right thing to do considering the risk associated with employing an incompetent worker- a person that is far much more likely to be injured. Instead, keenly scrutinize the candidates to confirm that they possess the skills and experience needed. Hiring smartly ensures that there are fewer cases of injuries and, most importantly, improve the safety of individual workers and others.
Even the most safety-oriented employee can forget some safety features at times. Having signs posted around the manufacturing plant or warehouse facility is a necessary way of improving safety. The signs remind each employee of the risks that are inherent in their jobs and what they ought to do to comply with the safety regulations. The signs can range from anything like “wash your hands” in the employee washroom to “helmet area”.
Instead of rewarding high production targets that promote quick work with very little attention to safety, rewards should be given to those employees that follow all the safety rules and regulations and perform their work effectively and reliably. By putting emphasis on safety rather than productivity, one will be rewarding the methodology of achievement instead of the end result.
Provide maintenance on all machines and equipment
Efficiently running tools, equipment and machine is an ingredient of success. Lack of regular servicing and maintenance will result in these items failing to work as intended. Breakdowns will not only decrease production and efficiency due to time spent on carrying out repairs but also risks the worker’s safety when they use the malfunctioning equipment.
Carrying out of drills
It is not enough to have a plan on what employees need to do in case of a crisis. In most instances, a majority of the employees can’t even implement it. Therefore, it is important to regularly alert employees through drills to ensure they know what to do and where to move to in case of certain emergencies.