Archive for August, 2012

THE MOST COSTLY LIFT TRUCK HAZARDS ARE UNSEEN

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Tom Andel August 27th, 2012

MATERIAL HANDLING & LOGISTICS

You know how dangerous a lift truck can be when controlled by a poorly trained operator. According to OSHA, overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving lift trucks, representing about a quarter of all forklift-related deaths.

As hard as that statistic is to take, it’s easy to understand. There’s clear cause and effect. What’s not so clear are the slower-acting hazards associated with lift trucks. Many of these are muscular or skeletal injuries that can happen over time to the best operators—without those operators or their employers even being aware of any aggravating conditions.

After blogging about that AGV fatality a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what other hazards go under-appreciated in connection with industrial trucks. Many devastating injuries start out slowly and may not even be related to the job—at first. Say someone with an old back or neck injury gets a job driving a lift truck in a warehouse. The person he replaced may never have complained about stresses and strains on the job because he was otherwise healthy. However, for another person, a lift truck could turn a pre-existing condition into a clear and present danger.

I asked my contact at Humantech, an ergonomics consulting and training firm, about some of the most common ergonomic stresses associated with lift trucks. Here’s what to look out for:

• Awkward neck, trunk and rotated shoulder postures associated with repeated rearward driving;

• Awkward neck and trunk and postures associated with restricted visibility through mast & cab cage while driving or retrieving loads from high locations;

• Whole body vibration (ISO 2631) associated with shock and vibration caused during travel over expansion joints, dock plates, worn wheels, and rough floors;

• Hands-arm vibration associated with shock and vibration caused during prolonged steering over and using primary controls;

• Lower extremity impact stress issues associated with existing/entering elevated fork trucks;

• Lower back issues associated with prolonged sitting in combination with shock/vibration caused during travel.

The leading lift truck manufacturers have been aware of these hazards for a long time and design their products with ergonomic features that address many of them. If after taking a tour of your worksite you notice your lift truck operators dealing with any of the above conditions, consider asking your material handling equipment dealer about the following:

• Vibration and shock reducing seats with adjustable arm rests;

• Seats designed to enable the operator to tilt back when picking items from high shelves, thus allowing a more neutral neck position;

• Vibration isolation (Toyota found that mounting the engine at a 35-degree angle reduces vibration because the engine is wedged into the mount area, therefore minimizing lateral movement. Nissan isolates the cab from the engine compartment with shock absorbers and cushions in some of their models, while Komatsu separates the cab from the frame using a hydraulic suspension system.)

• Seat replacement for forklifts that are in constant use (Humantech says seat systems lose their effectiveness after 2-3 years of 24/5 work);

• Rotating (45 to 180 degrees) swivel seats and swivel controls to promote comfortable forward/rearward operation;

• Low vibration suspended floorboards for stand-up lift trucks;

• Combination sit and stand lift trucks;

• High visibility/clear view lift truck masts;

• Vibration dampening steering columns;

• Intuitive and low force single hand control operation;

• Anti-sway mechanisms for high-lift trucks;

• Mirrors and CCTV cameras to enhance good all round visibility.

But while touring your worksite for lift truck fixes, take a look at the operators too. It may be hard to spot muscular or skeletal problems, but how many of your operators are overweight? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity-related health care costs are approaching $8 billion per year, exacerbated by associated health conditions like diabetes.

Obese workers with diabetes can be less productive on the job and more susceptible to severe injury situations that result in higher insurance costs. I saw an article by Teresa Long, director of injury management strategies for the Institute of WorkComp Professionals, in which she tells of the case of an employee who was bumped in the leg by a laundry cart. This abrasion aggravated this worker’s diabetes condition, resulting in an award of permanent total benefits (lifetime medical and lost wages benefits). So even a scrape getting on or off a lift truck could conceivably result in a multiple six-figure claim.

Keep in mind the old rhyme about escalating consequences:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the message was lost, for want of a message the battle was lost, for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Don’t leave your business wanting for the lack of a good ergonomics and safety program.

Three Examples Why Cheaper Warehouse Equipment Isn’t Always Less Expensive

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Three Examples Why Cheaper Warehouse Equipment Isn’t Always Less Expensive

    Fri, 08/17/2012 – 4:59pm
     Carol Thorsen, Manager of Wynright Corporation’s Inside Sales
FEATURED IN INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION

Perhaps one of the most significant contributions the Internet has made to our daily lives (outside of being able to connect with people we never spoke to and didn’t even know in high school) is the ability to find the rock-bottom price for just about anything we need to purchase easily. With a quick search on the right keywords, or a visit to megasites such as Amazon.com or eBay, we can find exactly what we’re looking for and save a lot of money to boot. Or so it would seem.

The truth is that strategy works for some items but not others. If you’re looking for a Sony video camera, or a new Chevy Volt, or an authentic 1950s Wurlitzer “bubble” jukebox they’re great. But when it comes to purchasing warehouse and industrial supplies and equipment, the waters get a lot murkier.

The problem is that most times you don’t have a specific brand or item in mind, so you search on a more generic term such as “shelving” or “casters.” What you return in results may or may not fit your requirements – but you won’t really know because there’s no one to ask. All you’re looking at is a very general product description, a photo and a price.

That’s the difference between shopping at a general site and one that specializes in warehouse and industrial equipment and supplies. With the latter you can explain what you need, ask questions and ensure that when the products are delivered they’ll actually work in your application.

By now you may be saying “oh, sure; how complicated can it be?” Here are three examples of where gaining a little assistance can save you some time and trouble, and ultimately work out to be less expensive than going cheap.

Wire shelving. Not all wire shelving is made to the same technical specifications or quality level. There is often a huge difference between wire shelving built specifically for industrial purposes and the kind made in the Third World (without regulations), sold from a personal website or account (without a physical location) and shipped from a public storage locker (without liability insurance). You may save a little money up-front, but you’ll basically have wire shelving that’s suited to holding towels in your bathroom or garden tools in your garage, but won’t hold up in a warehouse setting that requires them to hold more than 300 lbs. because they used 7/8 inch diameter posts and collars. And good luck trying to return it when you realize it won’t work.

Shelving from big box stores is usually just as bad. It normally has a split post that allows it to fit neatly into a car trunk. Convenient, sure, but don’t expect that post to support the weight of auto parts, frozen foods or a dense pickface of office supplies for long.

If you use a site where there’s expert help available, you can check specifications and tolerances, explain your application, and ensure you receive the right wire shelving the first time. You won’t end up paying twice, and you’ll actually be able to keep your project on schedule.

Casters. Sure, those casters look all nice and shiny, and the price is great. But you won’t like them nearly as much if they end up leaving black marks on your expensive Berber carpet after just three months of use. You may pay a little more up-front at a dedicated warehouse equipment online store – but you’ll save in the long run on cleaning bills. And replacement costs when you get tired of looking at those black marks.

Finish. You’ve heard the expression “all that glitters is not gold.” Same goes for the finish on products. An NSF-rated manufacturer puts layers of protection between the raw steel and the zinc, chrome, epoxy or stainless finish. Without that rating, you’ll probably have something that looks like a bathroom faucet in a cheap motel over time: puckered, peeling and rusting. A dedicated warehouse site will only sell NSF-rated products, ensuring you’re not replacing your work before its time.

While it’s nice to get short-term savings, warehouses and other industrial settings are not short-term propositions. And choosing the wrong products can end up costing you more – much more – in the long term.

By limiting your search to online stores that are backed by companies with specific expertise in warehouse and industrial supplies and equipment, you’ll get more than good pricing. You’ll ensure you’re only looking at products that will stand up to your environment, and that you’ll be able to get the help and advice you need to decide between them. That’s a smarter move all the way around.

Carol Thorsen is the Manager of Wynright Corporation’s Inside Sales, WarehouseEquipmentStore.com and Government Services Operations. During her 18-year tenure, she has held positions in sales training, product management and applications engineering. A  graduate of the University of Illinois, Carol holds certifications in Materials Management and APICS, and has studied industrial automation and systematic layout planning.