Forklift Operators and Ergonomics

September 5, 2018
Posted by: Justin Engel

Over the past 20 years, businesses throughout North America have become increasingly more aware of the risks associated with lower back pain (LBP), repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) and musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). Such injuries have a significant economic impact and cost billions of dollars every year in lost productivity, wages, and workplace insurance claims, which are three of the most common causes behind injury-related absenteeism and workers’ compensation claims in North America. In response to this development, businesses and forklift manufacturers have begun investing in a long neglected area of occupational health and safety – that of operator ergonomics.

 

How Inadequate Ergonomics Harm Your Bottom-line:

Operating a forklift on a regular basis puts your employees at a high risk of developing repetitive strain and musculoskeletal injuries.  Before any other factor is taken into consideration, the basic requirements of such a job requires an operator spend an inordinate amount of time in a stationary or seated position. As with other professions that require employees spend long, uninterrupted periods of time in a seated position, this means that forklift operators are at risk of developing muscle strains, soreness and cramping in their back, neck, shoulders and arms.

Unlike their desk-bound counterparts, however, forklift operators are regularly subjected to additional movements and strains that exasperate an already detrimental situation.  Over the course of a regular workday, it is not uncommon for a forklift operator to shift into an awkward position or contort themselves in an effort to maintain visibility. This is particularly prevalent in confined, indoor workplaces where forklift operators are regularly forced to avoid obstacles, navigate through narrow aisles and around tight corners.  What’s more, the lack of a suspension system means that even the most basic operations subject an operator to incessant vibrations from the engine or jolts as the forklift traverses uneven surfaces. Taken together, these two factors alone may prematurely degrade vulnerable joints and connective tissues of the body, as well as gradually compress the spinal column and cause damage to the delicate discs between the vertebrae.

Even before taking the physical risks associated with RSIs and MSIs into consideration, poorly designed operator ergonomics can threaten the overall productivity and profitability of any business or operation. This can lead to forklift operators that are far more likely to experience high levels of fatigue, which can lead to decreased alertness, fatigue and physical strain, poor decision-making and confusion. As a result, fatigued operators are unable to maintain optimal levels of productivity while simultaneously posing a significantly higher risk to the business’s property, inventory, equipment, and co-workers alike.

 

How Stärke Equipment Can Help:

On a basic level, creating an ergonomically-friendly forklift begins with the design and arrangement of the operator’s seat and the vehicle’s control system. To ensure that the end of an operator’s shift is just as productive as the beginning, Stärke’s XVI series of counterbalanced forklifts includes a number of ergonomic features designed with operator comfort and control in mind.

Unlike the equipment that they use on a daily basis, forklift operators rarely come in standard or uniform sizes and dimensions. So, to accommodate a wide variety of operator shapes and sizes in a way that promotes proper posture and a comfortable sitting position, each XVI forklift is equipped with an adjustable suspension seat and steering column, an ample foot well to allow operators to operate the foot pedals at a comfortable angle, and a long operator assist grip for easy movement in and out of the forklift. To complement the improved ergonomics and operator comfort provided by the aforementioned features, Stärke XVI series of forklifts also limits operator strain with ergonomically designed, easy access controls.

As part of this systemic approach to operator comfort and safety, Stärke’s range of XVI forklifts also includes a number of innovative parts and components which further enhance the ergonomics of their equipment. With their newly designed wide-view mast system, Stärke’s effectively limits the health and safety risks that result from twisting and turning to deal with poor visibility. To reduce the noise and vibration, the XVI was engineered to include dampening devices that insulate the engine and a one-piece floating cabin further reduces the vibration felt within the operator’s compartment. Meanwhile, the wet-disc braking system prevents the discomfort and strain caused by irregular or rough deceleration.

 

Taken as a whole, the innovative engineering and ergonomic features included in Stärke’s XVI series of counterbalanced forklifts represent a categorical improvement over other models within its class. In this way, Stärke continues to demonstrate its commitment to develop product solutions based upon emerging market forces, customer needs and changes to our environment. There’s strength in numbers, and Stärke is strength.

Author:

Justin Engel

Justin Engel is the marketing specialist at Stärke Material Handling Group. In addition to content development, he also handles graphic and website design, SEO, PR and strategic planning.

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