Safety, ergonomic issues associated with shipping, handling and storage

slot lock crow barMost of the packaging/crating solutions that Packnet builds will either get handled by shippers, dockworkers or warehouse material handlers.   Often a crated product will get stored several times in a warehouse including before shipment, during the transport and its final destination.

According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics (http://www.bls.gov), Warehouse and storage workers experienced an OSHA recordable rate of 5.2 accidents per 100 full time workers in 2013.  That is 3 times greater than the industrial average for all workers.   Obviously material handlers have a higher chance of injuring themselves than most other professions.  Source:Warehouse and Storage Workers.

The types of work associated with this category are varied and includes a number of industries and work:

  • Dock workers
  • Warehouse workers
  • Manufacturing personnel
  • Food and beverage workers
  • Truck drivers (many do unloading and loading of vehicles)

On average an OSHA recordable accident costs a company between $60,000 and $70,000 of direct and indirect costs (source: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/safetypays/estimator.html) Even for small businesses, this number can be significant.  Additionally, accidents affect the quality of workplace and employee morale, so spending money on an accident prevention program is well worth the investment.

Accident prevention programs can fall into one of several categories:

  • Equipment handling investment
  • Safety and work methods training
  • Facility upgrades
  • Packaging and storage systems

The area that Packet has the most interest in is packaging and storage systems.  Below are some of the potential accidents associated with packaging and crating:

Stress and Strain:

  • Many crates are simple boxes that are loaded from the top requiring a worker to reach and bend over the box wall and set the item in place. This places muscular/skeletal strain on arms, shoulders, back and legs.   Injuries can include a onetime trauma stress or repetitive motion injury.  Crates or containers that can be side loaded or can be assembled around the product are much better ergonomically and actually can save time.   Packnet has a number of container products that can be loaded from the side.  Slotlock™ and Buckhorn plastic containers are a couple of examples.
  • Crates that require hardware such as screws, nails or clips can be a source of injury. Continually having to pound nails or turn screws can cause muscular strain even when power tools are used.  When uncrating, using claws or crowbars to break open containers not only can be a source of repetitive motion issues, but wood splinters created during uncrating can be a source of injury.   Hardware less crates minimizes these types of risks.  Packnet’s Slotlock™ containers require zero hardware and are reusable as well as collapsible.

Impact or Trauma Injuries, many of these injuries are due to operators getting hit by falling debris.  A few causes are as follows:

  • Stacking Instability: Space is a premium so it makes sense to try to stack product, however many containers are not strong enough to consistently stand up to stacking, especially if they get a little wet.    Often packages are arranged on a pallet and another loaded pallet is stacked on top.  Even when containers are not directly contacted by the pallet, the side to side stability can be an issue.   Packnet offers a number of options for durable, robust and stackable container systems that allow safe stacking.
  • Improper Pallets: A pallet that is too small for the load can also cause problems when stacking or moving.  Many companies try to save money by purchasing one standard size pallet or try to get any sized used pallet they can find.  Sometimes a standard size pallet is not going to do the job, or some pallets can only be accessed from one side,   making it more difficult for forklift operators to maneuver and stack.   Sometimes the best option is to invest in custom pallets that are configured to minimize these types of issues.  Packnet makes custom sized pallets that can be configured to maximize efficiency and safety.   Hardware and cushioning can also be added.

Unfortunately, packaging and crating for industrial applications don’t get the engineering attention they deserve.  The impact of poorly designed containers or using containers that are not ideal for the job are often significantly underestimated in terms of the added safety and product damage risks as well as the additional labor caused by inefficiency.   Many of Packnet’s custom engineered solutions save customers a ton of money.   If you are wondering how much a custom engineered packaging solution can save you, please take advantage of our free packaging assessment.