Motion Control Engineering & Manufacturing Resources

Ergonomics in Manufacturing: How to Improve Shop Floor Safety

Posted by Weber Knapp on May 5, 2021 9:00:00 AM

WK ergonomics in manufacturing lifting pallet

In manufacturing, safety is always a major concern. Hazards that come with the territory of a manufacturing line or shop floor can pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of your employees.

Not only is it important that your employees can work safely, neglecting preventative safety measures can add up to massive costs, including:

  • Equipment damage
  • Time loss and waste
  • Lawsuits
  • Worker's comp premium increases

While most manufacturing professionals would agree that a comprehensive safety program is essential to a healthy, productive workplace, many regularly neglect factoring systems that promote good ergonomics in manufacturing. Poor ergonomics in equipment and workstations lead to problems over time, causing just as many, if not more costly problems than if you'd just invested in the right practices in the first place.

With poor ergonomic considerations, both repeated long-term strain and sudden accidents can lead to problems in your company. Even something as simple as bad posture hurts employee health and happiness over time-- leading to long-term worker's comp increases, and poor retention rates.

Ergonomics in Manufacturing: Establishing a Culture of Workplace Ergonomics

Encouraging ergonomic practices through company policy is a good start for a healthier and safer workplace. To have real effect, however, culture must be cultivated from the top of the company down.

Telling employees to follow safe practices with their work often has minimal success unless they see those attitudes reflected in supervisors and management. Giving workers education on how to work safely, while also ensuring that they have the right tools to do so, will foster a positive culture where the entire organization proactively seeks out more safe and healthy work practices.

There are many ways that shop floor safety can improve through proper ergonomics, but some of the easiest "quick wins" are:

Repositioning Every 30 Minutes

While this is common advice in computer-intensive office jobs, it is hugely beneficial for many of the repetitive motions that often cause long-term injury on a shop floor. Getting up and moving around at least every 30 minutes is necessary to stimulate blood flow to muscles and keep the body limber.

Lift With Your Legs, Once & for All

Everybody in manufacturing has heard this, but is it really in practice in your organization? Proper lifting not only involves squatting to ensure that the majority of stress is on your legs instead of your spine, but also lifting loads closer to you. Lifting from far away may cause you to actually strain your back more as you rise. You can't supervise workers at every moment, so ingrain this in company culture through and through.

Get the Right Ergonomic Equipment

If you want a healthier and safer workforce, you have to provide workers with the right tools to get the job done. There are many equipment-based solutions available for workplace ergonomics. Considering the risks of your specific worksite and providing the right equipment will allow employees to work more safely and productively.

  • Lifting aids. Installing pallet lifts and other lifting aids at key points can minimize the risk of injury. Mobile lifting solutions like forklifts and hand trucks not only decrease strain on employees but can also massively improve efficiency.

  • Transportation devices. Carts or other transportation can be cost-effective ways to minimize accidents, especially in areas where workers routinely carry heavy loads.

  • Computers and multi-user workstations. Shared office computers, desks, CNC machines, or assembly stations are commonly used by many employees. Outfitting these with adjustable ergonomic manufacturing workstation seating and displays is essential since they need to accommodate many people. Tons of solutions exist for ergonomic workstation designs for manufacturing. Applying those strategies to shared workspaces improves mental and physical health.

  • Large toolboxes or other heavy lids with hinges. Installing opening solutions such as a counterbalance hinge can reduce repeated strain from heavy lifting.

Proper Training

Training is the beginning of company culture. Without proper training, any company directives about safe practices can die on the vine.

Educate employees on how to use the tools you provide them to maximum effect. Continually stress the importance of ergonomics best practices for manufacturing. Involve employees regularly by offering safety goals and rewards and engaging in community activities like specific ergonomic stretches for manufacturing workers.

More Ergonomic Ideas for Manufacturing

Train your employees to follow proper ergonomics in manufacturing, then show them you care about it through policies and actions. You'll be well on your way to a safer, healthier workplace. To learn more ergonomic tips and tools for manufacturing, download our free e-book:

Manager's Equipment Guide

Topics: Ergonomics, Safety, Manufacturing