Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Ergonomic Do’s and Don’ts of Cargo Handling

July 2016, by Andy Lundin - Also by this author

Graphic showing the proper positioning to handle cargo and equipment courtesy of DECKED.
Graphic showing the proper positioning to handle cargo and equipment courtesy of DECKED.

Editor's note: Click here to view a full photo slideshow that illustrates the dangers of poor ergonomic practices and some suggested ways to correct them.

There is more to the safety of a fleet driver than just being aware of one’s surroundings while on the road or navigating the job site. The steps needed to safely load and unload vehicle cargo and equipment are as important as driving the vehicle to or from the job site.

Improper ergonomic behavior can result in musculoskeletal injuries, which account for more than one third of all lost-workday cases, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In the construction industry alone, musculoskeletal injuries resulting from improperly loading or unloading vehicles are among the most common type of injuries. They account for about half of all compensation claims, according to the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. These injuries directly affect the bottom line, accounting for over $15 billion annually in direct costs to employers, according to Liberty Mutual.

There are a number of poor ergonomic conditions associated with manual material handling tasks that can result in such injuries. This includes awkward or stressful body postures (e.g., bending, twisting, overhead work); frequently reaching, lifting, and carrying; moving heavy loads; leaning against hard surfaces or sharp edges; maintaining fixed positions for extended periods of time; or working on a surface that sits too high and results in excessive reaching, bending, and lifting.

Graphic showing ergonomic flaws of bending and stooping to move equipment courtesy of DECKED.
Graphic showing ergonomic flaws of bending and stooping to move equipment courtesy of DECKED.

Jobs that involve working from the bed of a pickup truck or cargo van expose a worker to awkward movements when needing to access items in the bed, toolboxes, or other storage containers.

Injuries relating to the lower back and upper extremities result from over-exertion in poor ergonomic conditions. These injuries can occur suddenly or develop over time, and can result in chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

Creating a workplace environment with good ergonomics reduces these injuries, saves money, and increases worker productivity.

Equipping vehicles with more ergonomically correct solutions can mitigate exposure to these awkward positions, reducing injuries and costs, and increasing productivity.

Click here to view the do’s and don’ts prepared by Mary Smith, B.S.E., M.S.E. IOE, an independent human factors expert from Detroit, for DECKED (www.decked.com) illustrate the dangers of poor ergonomic practices and some suggested ways to correct them.

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