If you have ergonomic issues related to manual material handing in your warehouse or distribution center (and who doesn’t?), then you are going to want to spend some time with Jim Galante.
Jim is chairman of the EASE Council, an ergonomics subgroup of MHI, the nation’s largest material handling, logistics and supply chain association. He will be presenting an afternoon pre-conference workshop at the Applied Ergonomics Conference (AEC) on March 21st.
Jim’s knowledge is vast and deep when it comes to material handling and his passion to educate is evident. In a recent interview, he explained, “People need to recognize that there are some very simple solutions available. The material handling industry has a great deal of technology and innovation, and I don’t think there’s a general awareness of how we can help people.”
Over one-half of lost-time workplace injuries and roughly 60% of workers’ compensation claims are related to manual material handling. In many respects, there is much to be improved. Jim cites the grocery and merchandising industries where re-stockers “are asked to lift thousands of pounds of materials every night from pallets on the floor.” He adds, “What we’re asking people to do without sufficient tools, training, and equipment is very, very, difficult.”
Jim points out that one solution doesn’t fit all. “What might be a good solution for a food distribution warehouse might not be a good solution for a beverage warehouse. But there are lots of opportunities for improvement, and many solutions are relatively inexpensive.” Educating people on which solutions work best for various situations will be central to his upcoming AEC workshop.
When asked for his number-one suggestion on what companies can do to reduce sprains and strains in distribution centers, Jim is quick to answer. “While companies understandably strive to maximize pallets and rack space, this is a huge area of concern from an ergonomics standpoint. Not only are pallets placed too close together (and on the floor), but cross bars on racks are often placed at 5 feet high (or lower), forcing employees to bend, twist, and lift in extremely awkward postures.” He adds, “This is the worst of the worst.”
Jim notes that now is a crucial time in this industry, as both the average age of workers and the size of their waistlines are on the rise. “We can’t continue to do what we were doing 20 to 30 years ago, especially with today’s aging and out-of-shape workforce.”
Learn more about Jim’s upcoming workshop on material handling at AEC.