Working ergonomically within the Power Zone
Working fulltime with a task that is physically demanding can be incapacitating, if no technical aid is applied.
The consequences of work-related ill health are not always noticed. Research indicates that the economic consequences of poor working conditions are underestimated. Cost-benefit analysis studies show that investing in occupational safety and health yields positive results.
1. Keep on the move
Your body is designed to move. When you stay in one position for some time, your muscles become stiff and moving is difficult. This applies even if you find the position comfortable. Your muscles simply become tired if a position is maintained for a longer period of time. It is important that you change your position as frequently as possible. Make a point of stretching the whole of your body at frequent intervals.
2. Work within your Power Zone
Your body is strongest around the middle. The most powerful area is between the shoulder and just above the knee. We call this the Power Zone. If you reach away from the body to lift a parcel, it will feel heavier. The further away your arms are from your body, the heavier the weight will feel. If you move outside of your Power Zone to lift an item, it will feel heavier still.
When you work within your Power Zone, the risk of muscular strain and injury to the joints, tendons and ligaments is reduced.
3. Reduce repetitions
Repeating short, intensive movements continuously can give rise to muskolar skeletal injuries. When you are (un)loading a large volume of parcels, or similar loose-loaded goods, try to move in a variety of ways. Poor posture, or maintaining the same posture over a period of time, increases the risk of repetitive strain injury.
4. Lighten the load
Consider the weight of any item that you need to lift. If you are unable to work within your Power Zone, is there equipment that could ease the lifting process for you? The more force required to lift, the greater the risk of injury.
If there is no equipment available, that can make the work easier, you may want to ask a colleague for help moving the item.
5. Maintain good posture
If you need to outstretch your arms to lift a parcel, you are upsetting the natural balance of your body. When you work outside of your Power Zone, using awkward postures, the parcel actually feels heavier to lift. The bigger the distance to the centre of your body, the heavier the weight will feel.
Try to keep your body upright, leaning neither in nor out. If you need to bend a joint, e.g. your arm or leg, try to keep the angle as close to 90° as possible.
The weight of the item to be lifted, the duration of the lift and how frequently you lift will also influence the way your body experiences lifting.
6. Wear suitable clothing
If there is a risk of hard objects digging into your skin, you should wear protective clothing such as gloves. Areas like your thighs and fingertips are particularly sensitive to contact stress. Continuous pressure to a small area can inhibit the flow of blood resulting in bruising or sore muscles.
Wearing protective clothing may also prevent patches of skin from blistering due to friction.
Protective clothing must always be worn if there are sharp objects in the area in which you work.
7. Comfortable environment
Cold temperatures are thought to contribute to the risk of repetitive strain injury. As this type of injury typically affects the upper body, wear a warm jacket and gloves if possible. It may also be possible to heat the truck or container in which you will be working.
Good lighting is crucial to a comfortable working environment. Both ambient and background lighting are required to illuminate the immediate work area. Floor lighting makes it safer for you to move around inside the truck or container.
These guidelines have been provided as a supplement to your organisation's health and safety policies. If you have any queries about health and safety practices in your specific facility, please contact your line manager.