There is a drastic shift coming in the world of warehouse safety technology. Until now, the only way to know the effectiveness of safety measures was waiting six months to see if injuries dropped from previous figures. With new technology, companies can shorten feedback loops from 6 months to weeks or days by measuring the factors that influence safe lifting instead of waiting on end results.
Two of these factors are proper lifting form and number of repetitions. Many back injuries occur when warehouse workers lift incorrectly or when form breaks down after fatigue sets in. The first thing to do before you start measure lifting reps and form is to learn what safe lifting looks like. There are plenty of resources out there that can help with this. A rule of thumb is to make sure that workers are lifting with their legs instead of their backs. Train each of the workers when they are hired and make sure you periodically reinforce the importance of proper lifting. Ensuring that workers are lifting with proper form can go a long way towards reducing back injuries in the warehouse. Even if you have done the above steps, it’s possible that lifting form will suffer throughout the day. Just like a weightlifter or athlete, too many lifting reps can lead to fatigue and fatigue can lead to poor form even if a worker is trying their best to maintain proper posture.
For this reason, it makes sense to regularly measure lifting form and tweak safety programs to optimize it. You can measure to see when lifting form starts to break down, identify the root cause, and work to eliminate or alleviate it. There are several options to measure lifting form, but each comes with certain trade-offs between accuracy, effort, and cost.
Accuracy: The ability to consistently and correctly track lifting form and identify when posture breaks down.
Effort: How much time and energy employees and management need to put into tracking lifting habits and the opportunity cost of using it to track lifts instead of other issues.
Cost: How much money it takes to implement a tracking solution.
During the day, have employees spend 20 minutes focusing on recording their lifting habits. Have them count one full order and record: the number of lifts, the number of lifts they thought were safe, and their thoughts on situations they thought were unsafe
The safety manager takes a set amount of time per week to observe employee(s) and track number of lifts, lifting form, and thoughts on unsafe lifting situations.
Just as devices like the Fitbit give companies the ability to track overall employee activity and health, there are technologies being developed to track lifting behavior. Employees would wear the device during a shift and the device tracks and scores every lift for later review.
The solution you choose depend on what is best for your company. You may start with one and then shift to another as time goes on. At VIT, our Arc product can help with both automatically tracking unsafe behavior that lead to injuries, provide customized training, and contact tracing to reduce workplace illness spread by over 50%.