Warehousing is a physically strenuous job. Employees in warehouse facilities spend hours loading, unloading, transferring, and stacking goods. Warehouses are full of heavy and awkward items. Each time a product is moved, there is a risk of disabling injury.
Every workers’ compensation attorney in Illinois knows that many cases of musculoskeletal trauma and lost working hours may be preventable. Recent studies show that proper stretching exercises and other ergonomic techniques can substantially decrease the rate of injuries among warehouse employees.
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Warehouse employees lose more days of work than other employees
According to current figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, warehouse workers lose 5.2 days of work per 100 employees each year due to injury in the workplace. This rate is significantly higher than the overall annual rate of 3.3 lost days per 100 workers in private industry. The average for all industries includes a large number of hazardous professions such as construction, logging, firefighting and law enforcement. Warehouse employees are still at a considerably higher risk of disabling injury than the aggregate of all American workers.
Safety hazards of warehousing are complex
The job description for a warehouse worker includes the ability to lift, bend, twist and carry packages weighing 50 pounds or more. Many warehouse employees work long shifts under time pressure with minimal breaks. Fatigue among workers can contribute to the high rate of injuries. When employees are fatigued, they are much more likely to mishandle a load and become injured. Poor physical fitness, insufficient conditioning and other complications can also raise the injury rate in warehouses.
Warehouse injuries occur in different ways
According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 65 percent of all warehouse injuries causing a loss of working hours occur while the employee is actively carrying or lifting materials. The remaining 35 percent of injuries occur in circumstances that are not directly connected with human exertion, such as the handling of materials by automatic machinery such as conveyor belts.
These alarming OSHA statistics show that nearly two-thirds of serious injuries in the warehouse are directly traceable to the ergonomics of the human body while it handles heavy packages. Given the high human cost and financial cost of warehouse injuries, managers and workers must pay attention to increasing safety in the warehouse floor. One of the most cost-efficient and successful ways of cutting injury rates is the use of proper stretching before lifting heavy objects, as any workers’ compensation attorney in Illinois is aware.
Health benefits of proper stretching
When warehouse workers stretch before work, they enjoy all of the following benefits:
- Greater range of motion
- Better coordination
- Decreased tension in muscles
- Better blood circulation
- Raised levels of energy throughout the shift
- Increased relaxation and ability to handle stress
Even a brief stretching program can offer all of these advantages to employees. OSHA statistics show that stretching can cut warehouse injuries by up to 50 percent.
How can warehouse facilities implement a stretching program?
Warehouse facilities can start an exercise program in just a few weeks if they use their resources wisely. Every day that employees stretch before work is a safer day on the warehouse floor. One important part of implementing a stretching program is finding the right consultants to design the program. Occupational health physicians, physical therapists and nurses are all familiar with the range of stretches needed to tackle a difficult job such as loading and unloading heavy pallets. Ergonomic experts can analyze the particular tasks of each warehouse job and design a program that works best for preventing injury
Typical stretching programs for warehouse workers
A typical stretching program for people who work in warehouses might include exercises such as hand and finger stretches, shoulder rotation, gentle twisting of the back, leg stretches and breathing exercises. These stretching programs are performed at the beginning of every work shift. Employees may also be encouraged to perform short stretches during work breaks.
Involving workers in ergonomic safety programs
While warehouse employees are stretching, they are on the clock. They must be paid fully for their time during these important safety exercises. By including the stretching program as part of the job of working in a warehouse, employers earn the respect of workers.
Workers will also become more engaged in ergonomic safety programs when they are properly educated about the benefits of stretching. Regular safety meetings can be opportunities to teach employees about the advantage of warming up properly before lifting. Every new hire should be trained in correct stretching and ergonomics before starting a job on the warehouse floor. Many warehouses also operate a special training area where workers learn to maintain proper ergonomic techniques during a range of tasks.
Stretching is a smart choice for warehouse operations
A regular program of stretching has many advantages for the whole team of employees in a warehouse environment. It costs relatively little to develop the program, and even less to maintain it once it is in place. Workers will be healthier, happier and more efficient. Employers will enjoy lower injury costs and decreased workers’ compensation expenses. Everyone wins when workers stretch properly.
A professional athlete always stretches before going onto the field. Warehouse work can be as strenuous as playing a sport. With proper exercise, workers can cut the risk of trauma on the job. People who have suffered an injury on the warehouse floor should consider speaking with a workers’ compensation attorney in Illinois.