How Caster Selection Can Reduce Workplace Injuries and Related Costs
Manual material handling tasks (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying etc.) can be fraught with danger. Costs associated with material handling injuries can be astronomical and can include medical costs, decreased employee morale, and lost productivity.
The key to reducing these costly injuries in the workplace is to identify ergonomic risks in manual material handling jobs. Companies need to develop a preventative strategy to decrease workplace material handling risk in an effort to avoid injuries and associated costs.
Although there are many areas of manual handling risks to be explored, we are going to focus on pulling and pushing carts. Here are 10 key material handling tips to help you reduce workplace injuries and improve workplace ergonomics:
1. Mobility Forces
Through accurate measurement, ensure that the mobility forces are not too high to cause injury. These measurements can be taken using a force gauge and compared to the Snook Tables to see if the forces are at acceptable levels.
2. Harder Wheels = Better Mobility?
Harder wheels don’t necessarily mean easier mobility. Each floor surface and conditions will present different challenges when moving heavy loads. By choosing the right wheels, the rolling resistance can be greatly reduced. There is also the issue of debris that can be effectively managed depending on wheel material.
3. Ideal Wheeled Cart Design
Proper cart design can improve performance. Examine how the cart is being used; moving the casters to a better location on the cart can improve mobility. It is also beneficial to have adjustable handle heights for different people using the cart to prevent back injuries. A good starting point is 42″ from the ground. The ideal situation is to eliminate the user having to bend their knees.
4. The Right Caster Wheel Material for the Right Application
Choose the proper wheel material for your application and conditions. Choosing the proper wheel material can be tricky because of the variety of different types. Talk to a caster supplier or someone with caster technology knowledge to pinpoint the right product for your application. You can also check out caster solutions by industry which explains what you should be considering in your caster for your specific industry/application. Factors such as noise, debris, non-marking and mobility should all be considered in selecting the best wheel material.
5. All Wheels are Not Created Equal
Not all similarly looking wheel materials are the same. In many cases, wheels are made by other caster companies that will look identical to a Darcor caster. Although these wheels look the same, they will have completely different material properties, which will provide different mobility performance. Ask the wheel supplier what the forces will be to move your load. Also, inquire about your specific floor conditions to determine if the wheel they’re providing is the correct fit.
6. Operating Environment
Your operating environment impacts wheel performance. Some operating environments that require additional consideration when buying casters are wet environments, environments with debris or chemical agents, or rough, uneven or sloped surfaces. Most caster suppliers will have specifications showing what environments the wheels are best suited for.
7. More Wheels
More wheels can reduce swivel forces and injuries. Lowering swiveling forces can be done using a dual wheel caster that allows the wheels to turn versus grip the floor when swiveling. Essentially, using more than one wheel reduces the friction between the caster face and the floor surface and greatly enhances mobility.
8. Safe Speeds and Caster Brakes
Lowest mobility isn’t always the safest solution for your organization. Make sure wheeled carts are towed at a safe speed so the casters can grip the floor. Having brakes on the caster will also reduce the risk of carts rolling unexpectedly.
9. Better Bearings
Better bearings will improve mobility and reduce accidents. Using precision sealed bearings will reduce the risk of failures and offer very low maintenance, while still providing good reliability for carrying heavy loads and handling side thrust.
10. Noise and Vibrations
Noise reduction is an important consideration to protect employees’ hearing. Vibrations can cause both noise that can affect employee hearing over time and can also cause back and other work-related musculoskeletal disorders. General employee fatigue is also a common outcome. The right wheel material can reduce noise and vibrations. Softer wheels or shock dampening casters can be used to reduce noise and g-forces on a wheeled cart. Proper matching of wheel material to floor surface will also have a big impact on noise and vibration.
Choosing the Right Caster Can Reduce Employee Injuries and Related Costs
Improving workplace ergonomics in pushing and pulling manual material handling tasks is a step in the right direction to protect your employees and reduce workplace related injury costs.
By considering these 10 key material handling tips, you can implement some effective measures to improve material handling ergonomics.