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5 ways to improve ergonomics for your forklift drivers

All businesses seek to improve efficiency and reduce cost. Optimising goods flow, maximising use of space, investing in new technology and so on: this all has a positive impact on total cost. But it is also a good idea to focus on your forklift operators if you’re trying to save money and gain productivity. Operating a forklift is a demanding job: the stress of a busy warehouse operation can put a strain on drivers, making them less efficient and productive. Therefore, a proactive ergonomic focus can help you to maximise productivity.

What is ergonomics?

Many tend to assume it's about sitting posture, or maybe arm reach. But ergonomics is much more than that. Ergonomics allows workers to do their jobs. Do it right, safely, with comfort, and with accuracy. It is all about reducing strain, stress and discomfort, and having more relaxed positions, eventually leading to greater efficiency.

Health and work environment are strongly related. A recent study* showed that forklift operators have an increased risk of neck and shoulder injuries. The research showed that 49 percent of the operators had neck pain during the past year, and 63 percent had pain in the shoulders. Therefore, it is important to improve work schedules, adjust work tasks and have ergonomically designed equipment.

(* survey was conducted by Region Östergötland's Unit for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.)

To keep operators productive and prevent them from becoming fatigued throughout the day, good driver comfort is critical. Because a happy worker is a productive worker. The right equipment will make the difference when it comes to health & safety, productivity and cost.

1. Choose a low step-in height

A low step-in height makes repeatedly going on and off, particularly in intense order picking operations, easier and less tiring, keeping workers more productive and motivated throughout the shift. Going a step further, a remote drive solution can improve ergonomics even more. This concept allows the operator to move the truck forward without having to ride on it. The operator can simply advance the truck in a picking aisle with a small finger-operated remote control. This easy and efficient hands-free solution enables him/her to walk behind or next to the truck, reducing the need to go on/off it all the time.

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2. Reduce the effort to pull loads

Manual material handling requires a lot of pulling, carrying, and bending, which make the perfect recipe for strain on the worker's body, possibly leading to injuries and absences of work. When pulling loads, a compact tow tractor will support the smooth movement of the goods. Electric tow vehicles are easy and safe to use, helping you to manoeuvre goods in small areas and getting them to the right location in an ergonomic and quick way.

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3. Go for a comfortable and adjustable workspace

Forklift drivers spend most of their time on the truck. Therefore, a good seat that can be adjusted to their preferences, with controls easy in reach, and an overall layout that facilitates their daily work, are critical and will contribute to a motivated worker. Especially when working repetitively at height, neck and shoulders are experiencing strain. A cab that tilts when lifting the load will reduce this stress and keep the operator more focused and productive.

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4. Work at table height where possible

Solutions don't have to be complex. Elevating loads to a comfortable height for load transfer, functioning as a height-adjustable work table, will give operators a more comfortable working posture. A photocell to monitor the height of the top of the load will make it even easier: as items are moved on and off, the fork height is automatically adjusted to a comfortable level for the operator.

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5. Make sure you are protected when working outdoors

Working conditions outdoor can be hard due to rain, wind and sun. Thinking about health and productivity, proper protection is needed. Depending on the working conditions, windshields, wipers, doors (canvas or metal), heaters, etc, can be fitted to your forklift to make working outdoors as comfortable as indoors.

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