Does Warehouse Worker Comfort & Safety Boost Productivity?

3 Supply Chain Vendors Help Ensure Warehouse Worker Comfort & Increased Labor Productivity

Whether it is warehouse lighting, ventilation, layout or ergonomic concerns, making sure that warehouse workers can safely, comfortably and easily navigate warehouse receiving docks, shipping and freight areas and pick zones makes for a more productive operation.  Warehouse worker injuries reduce labor productivity, impact attendance and incidence of Workers’ Compensation claims and can disable your company’s ability to fulfill orders and provide the necessary business results.

How can your 3PL warehouse or distribution center improve workforce productivity?  Here is a look at a few companies that specialize in helping supply chain businesses provide optimal warehouse working conditions.

 

Proper Warehouse Lighting=Workforce Safety

From emergency lighting to having proper day-to-day light levels, proper lighting in warehouses can help prevent accidents and errors. Having proper lighting in warehouses and distribution centers helps ensure worker safety, preventing injuries and accidents.  In addition, poorly illuminated facilities can lead to eye strain and poor concentration.  Warehouses and DCs that lack proper lighting tend to have a higher error rate and less productive workforce.

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) Design Guide for Warehouse Lighting DG-2 provides guidance on lighting requirements of warehouses and storage areas.  Advice is provided within this guide as to the appropriate light levels needed for various types of work as well as the characteristics of the work environment, including the size of labels used to mark aisle locations, bins and racks.

Known for being a force in the industrial and commercial smart building revolution, Digital Lumens provides superior software, products and system integration.  By uniting its cloud-based intelligence platform, SiteWorx with IoT sensors and connected lighting, Digital Lumens delivers business intelligence overhead.
With specialized expertise in reducing energy usage without sacrificing hihigh-quality lighting performance for industrial facilities, Digital Lumens delivers connected lighting solutions which also act as a platform for distributed building intelligence through IoT sensors.

Another Digital Lumens innovation, Digital Light Agents™ facilitates enterprise-wide business intelligence for any LED-equipped environment.  Leveraging the lighting infrastructure, the system enables a wireless mesh network, ensures the proper level of light, when and where needed and meters and reports on energy use.  The system helps ensure worker comfort by providing a full range of dimming and controls and enables on demand control from anywhere-even a mobile application.

Digital Lumens also provides intelligent LED fixtures and smart lighting controls.

Warehouse Workforce Comfort:  Temperature and Ventilation

Making sure that an existing workforce is comfortable in warehouse working conditions has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on the bottom line.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a 2009 CareerBuilder human resources survey was conducted of 4,285 full time workers about working conditions.  22% of the respondents replied that a workplace that is too warm or too cold makes it difficult for workers to concentrate.

According to a one-month study conducted by Cornell University, the optimal temperature for productivity and work accuracy is approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have specific regulations addressing temperature and humidity conditions, they do recommend work area temperatures range from 68 degrees to 76 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity ranging from 20-60 percent.

Many large scale industrial facilities lack air conditioning.  Being able to move large quantities of air around the enclosed space in a manner that helps to keep a workforce cool and comfortable can be a major challenge.
Backed by cutting edge technology, intensive engineering and research, Big Ass Fans incorporates iconic design and innovation to create high volume, low speed fans that achieve notable results.  Started in 1999, Big Ass Fans was originally known as the HVLS Fan Company (High Volume Low Speed).  After so many prospective customers called to ask if the company made “those big ass fans”, they saw a marketing opportunity and changed the company name to reflect their core product’s iconic appearance.

Headquartered in Kentucky, Big Ass Fans has earned 11 consecutive rankings on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies, an achievement only earned by 34 other companies.

As part of their industrial fan line, Big Ass Fans provides industrial ceiling fans, column wall/fans, industrial mobile fans and controls.  Big Ass Fans also provides lighting suitable for industrial environments.

 

As airflow specialists, Big Ass Fans advises its clients on the value of condensation control.  Fans and proper ventilation aid in the prevention of condensation which can damage products and assets.

 

Warehouse Workers, Injury and Ergonomic Solutions

Did you know that workers who engage in proper ergonomics have been found to be more productive and yield a higher quality of work product?  Known as human factors and ergonomics (HF&E), the practice of designing for the functional nature and appropriateness of the work environment while addressing the unique needs of the workforce that utilizes it, HF&E helps facilitate worker comfort and dignity. Proper ergonomics is key to reducing worker injuries, especially musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).  In 2014, MSD accounted for one of every three dollars spent on workers’ compensation claims.  This also translates into approximately $20 billion annually of direct MSD-related costs for workers’ compensation and up to $100 billion in indirect costs for items associated with hiring and training worker replacements.

Concerns across the supply chain industry helped the formation of the Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE) Council in 1994.  This organization, formed within Material Handling The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically mentions issues regarding ergonomics in their OSHA Pocket Guide “Warehousing Worker Safety Series”.

Today, warehouses often rely on an aging, diverse workforce. 3PLs, DCs and warehouse operators can help meet the needs of this segment of the workforce by providing ergonomic lifts and work station systems to improve productivity and worker safety.  Pairing ergonomic lift devices with human workers combines the strength and capabilities of robotics and technology with the capabilities of human workers, enhancing the level of productivity.

Cynergy Ergonomics specializes in providing ergonomic solutions for manufacturing, assembly, production and distribution centers which rely on human workers for material handling as well as automated material handling solutions.
From ergonomic cranes, vacuum tube lifters and roll handling equipment to custom lifting devices and ergonomic work benches, Cynergy Ergonomics aids companies in finding cost effective solutions to help prevent worker injuries.  Ergonomic solutions can help address risk management issues and reduce the amount of repetitive movements and injury hazards, making activities more comfortable for human workers.

Here are two of the solutions available for supply chain facilities:

 

Ergonomic anti-fatigue mats help to reduce the amount of short-term fatigue from working on industrial hard floors as well as the long-term injuries that are often associated with working in a standing position.

Ergonomic lift tables can reduce the wear and tear on workers when handling heavy or cumbersome pallets and packages.

 

Conclusion

Providing conditions that ensure the comfort and safety of warehouse workers helps to ensure employee wellbeing and increase the level of output.  For warehouses experiencing low workforce productivity, look first to the layout, temperature, lighting and ergonomic conditions of the warehouse as these tend to be major factors limiting employees’ productivity level. Want to improve your workforce productivity formula?  Proper lighting and ventilation, a working temperature of 76-77 degrees Fahrenheit and the resources to improve ergonomic conditions can have a major impact on output, absenteeism and employment longevity as well as on work accuracy. Supply chain companies regularly invest in health care, talent initiatives, workforce incentives intended to boost productivity growth and staff training.  With today’s supply chain labor shortage, especially for the dollars spent, focusing on the comfort, workplace safety and employee wellbeing will pay valuable dividends in more productive labor hours, accurate operations and warehouse employee engagement.  By nearly any productivity measure, business leaders will agree that dollars spent on workforce comfort pays off, even inspiring employees to greater levels of company loyalty and tendency toward long term employment.

About the Author:

Laura Olson

Director of Sales and Marketing, Datex

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