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Industry Knowledge Base

The Electronic Logging Device Rule Creates Opportunities for Shippers

The electronic logging device rule, which will be fully enforced beginning April 1, has ramifications that go far beyond the experiences of truck drivers themselves. In fact, this rule creates real opportunities — and risks — for shipper-owned distribution centers at either end of the supply chain. ELDs intensify something that has been true about the relationship between shippers and carriers since time immemorial: Shippers that detain drivers for too long at the dock get bad reputations with carriers. There’s no shortage of freight, and carriers often have the luxury of choosing which shippers they work with. So when a shipper becomes notorious for long loading and unloading times at the dock, they can expect to pay more to move…more

Battery Room Ventilation Code Requirements

Battery room ventilation codes and standards protect workers by limiting the accumulation of hydrogen in the battery room. Hydrogen release is a normal part of the charging process, but trouble arises when the flammable gas becomes concentrated enough to create an explosion risk — which is why safety standards are vitally important. But what are these ventilation guidelines, who issues them, and where can warehouse managers find them? In this article, we’ll explore some of the most widely used regulations that control hydrogen gas levels in forklift battery charging areas. We’ll explain which ones are binding, where, and for whom, ultimately proposing solutions that keep workers safe while also helping the reader comply with rules that could otherwise leave operations…more

Industrial Lift Tables: Choosing Between Hydraulic, Pneumatic, and Electro-Mechanical Designs

Lift Tables provide ergonomic and productivity benefits across a wide range of industries, and the market has responded with multiple designs operated by varying technologies. Every type of Lift Table can help workers position materials, reducing incidents of musculoskeletal disorders and improving overall efficiency, but the technologies that produce the “lift” that defines the tool provide different sets of strengths and weaknesses. Scissor Lift Tables rely on linear actuators to generate the force that moves them up and down. Three main technologies produce this motion: hydraulic, pneumatic, and ball screw, or electro-mechanical, actuators. For all but a few niche applications, hydraulic cylinders provide the greatest combination of lifting power, affordability, and — with the right protections in place — reliability.…more

Planning for Post-Holiday Reverse Logistics at Distribution Centers

All year long, busy distribution centers prepare for the holiday sales season. But no sooner does the glut of outgoing orders begin to decline than we’re faced with a second rush, this time in reverse logistics. Not every gift can be just what the receiver most desired, and all of those unwanted gifts will soon be heading right back where they came from — the distribution center. So how can you best prepare for the coming post-holiday rush of returns? Here are a few ideas, but in order to understand the challenge, we’ll need to look at the changes in customer expectations that are coming up just on the other side of the holidays. E-Commerce Continues to Grow Going Into…more

Using the 10 Principles of Material Handling in the Warehouse

If the work of a warehouse or distribution center can be boiled down to one activity, it is material handling. After all, getting products or materials or components or whatever they may be from the point of origin to its final destination is what the logistics industry is all about. Handling, packaging, transportation, and data tracking are all essential tasks, and they all require highly specialized equipment. Luckily, the warehousing industry doesn’t have to start from scratch each time. Industrial engineers have been studying material handling since the Industrial Revolution. The Material Handling Institute, the largest association for supply chain industries in the United States, distilled the insights of professionals and researchers down into a document they call “The 10…more

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