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Industry Knowledge Base

What Is the NIOSH Lifting Equation and How Can It Help?

By 1981, it had been clear for some time that musculoskeletal disorders caused by manual lifting tasks on the job were causing far too many injuries to American workers. That year, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a technical report titled Work Practices Guide for Manual Lifting in an effort to reduce the number of injuries caused by unsafe lifting tasks at work. The conclusion of this nearly 200-page guide was a set of equations that would determine the “maximum permissible limit” and the lower, preferable “action limit” for the weight of a given lifting task. These equations included six variables that evaluators could use to figure out the ultimate limits of a given task. A…more

Improving Safety at Electrical Prefabrication Shops

These days, it’s rare to meet an electrical contractor who doesn’t do at least some prefabrication before heading to the jobsite. Many larger outfits run their own prefabrication shops. There are distinct advantages for contractors who operate in-house prefab teams, but there are also challenges, especially in terms of safety. Hazards in the shop environment can be quite distinct from those of an installation job site. But when did prefab get to be such a big part of the industry? Is dependence on a prefabrication shop really more efficient than completing pulls, cuts, and bends at the job site, as they arise? Most importantly, how can contractors reduce the risk of injury while prefabricating components? In this piece, we set…more

Ergonomics in Agriculture

Farm workers suffer from musculoskeletal disorders and lower back pain at a disproportionate rate. This won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s worked in agriculture; the job often involves awkward postures and repetitive motions. Musculoskeletal disorders caused by these workplace motions make up a third of the injuries that cause farm workers to take sick days. Back injuries make up a full quarter of them. This isn’t just tough on families and disastrous for productivity; it’s expensive for growers. In 2001, when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied ergonomics in agriculture, workers’ compensation for farm workers cost more than $20 million — in the state of California alone. The…more

How Ergonomic Material Handling Increases Productivity

To improve productivity in material handling applications, make the job easier for your staff. That statement might sound overly simple, or even counterintuitive. In fact, safety and efficiency are closely linked in the material handling world. Sure, there was a time when safety and efficiency were placed on opposite ends of an imaginary spectrum — but the explosion of ergonomics research over the past half-century has proven that model false. In fact, by implementing key ergonomic improvements that protect workers, industrial facilities can achieve leaner, more productive operations every time. The central goal of ergonomics helps to explain this dynamic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration describes ergonomics as “the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather…more

Regulations and Liability Regarding Third-Party Wastewater Transport

RCRA Compliance With Third-Party Wastewater Treatment Providers When battery-wash providers leave a facility, they can take sole responsibility for the wastewater they carry with them. While the language of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act does not make this clear, decades of EPA precedent — and the Agency’s own clarifications in the Federal Register — do. The RCRA governs the proper handling of hazardous waste from, as the Act has it, “cradle to grave.” The RCRA typically holds a single “generator” liable for disposing of hazardous waste according to EPA rules. But when multiple parties contribute to the generation of the same volume of waste, the situation becomes complicated. The runoff from washing forklift batteries is considered hazardous waste under…more

Choosing Lift Tables for Ergonomic Benefits

Industrial lift tables solve two major ergonomic challenges at once. First, they eliminate the need for manual lifts, a leading cause of workplace injury. Just as powerfully, they allow workers to position tasks within a comfortable range of movement. Together, these benefits can prevent the most common causes of musculoskeletal injuries in a variety of workplaces, from assembly lines to fulfillment warehouses. When business owners invest in mission-critical equipment, they need to know that these devices will perform flawlessly for years. But the market is flush with lift tables from competing manufacturers all over the world, and it can be difficult to judge relative merits at a glance. This paper will investigate the fundamental design characteristics that differentiate one lift…more

Assessing Seismic Standards for Forklift Battery Handling Equipment

In 2014, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a new round of Seismic Hazard Maps. According to these documents, the general risk of earthquake damage is far more widespread than previously supposed. Forty-two of the 50 states “have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years,” according to a report from the USGS that accompanied the latest maps. Warehouse managers should pay attention to these findings. Earthquakes can be especially harmful to forklift battery rooms. Businesses that depend on electric forklifts must choose battery handling equipment that can withstand the force of an earthquake, even in regions that are not traditionally associated with heavy seismic risk. Identifying the most durable battery handling equipment,…more

Environmental Benefits of Forklift Battery Handling Equipment

The environmental advantages of electric forklifts have been well documented. Compared to their internal combustion (IC) counterparts, electric industrial trucks have extremely low emissions, and make virtually no contribution to global climate change at point-of-use. According to a recent report published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, eco-indicators (including carcinogens, respiratory inorganics, and carbon emissions) were nearly 48 times higher for LPG trucks than for electric forklifts. Environmental Benefits of the BHS Battery Room* Reduces energy consumption through right-sizing of fleet Extends forklift battery life by simplifying maintenance procedures Prevents loss of battery investments through breakage Harmlessly vents hydrogen during charges Collects and neutralizes electrolyte spills and drips Reduces battery room footprint, requiring less energy on lighting, heating,…more

Medical Waste Disposal: Safety Challenges and Solutions

Hazardous medical waste has a peculiar life cycle. Administrative and non-hazardous health care waste tends to follow the same pattern as trash generated in any industry; uncontaminated paper, glass, and metals should be recycled. Food waste, ideally, would be composted. Mundane garbage will end up in a landfill. But when we talk about “medical waste disposal,” the real question is how to handle the dangerous byproducts of life-saving medical interventions. And that life cycle looks very different than that of conventional garbage. In this article, we will study the flow of hazardous medical waste from generation to treatment for safe disposal, or, alternately, on-site incineration. The moments from generation to treatment of medical waste present the greatest risk to health…more

Compressed Gas Safety for Warehouses and Distribution Centers

Even veteran material-handling experts break into a cold sweat when faced with a shipment of compressed gas. Gas cylinders carry unique hazards, and employees must treat them more carefully than virtually any other material in the warehouse. To add to the challenge, gas containers are shaped awkwardly. They don’t fit onto pallets or typical racks. Good luck trying to pick them up with a standard forklift or a pallet jack. Without specialized equipment, inexperienced employees may give into the temptation to move gas cylinders in dangerously improper ways. The consequences of mishandling gas canisters are dire. In 2014 alone, pressurized containers caused 6,280 nonfatal injuries in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those injuries, 1,700…more