NIOSH Releases Ergonomic Hazard Evaluation of Order Pickers

Atlanta-based building products distributor BlueLinx Corp. asked the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to visit the company's Bellingham, Mass., distribution center to determine whether order-pickers were at risk of injuries. NIOSH sent two ergonomics specialists to the facility, an OSHA VPP Star site employing 118 workers.

In the resulting report, released in June, the specialists found that workers at the facility generally use good ergonomic practices and that "no immediate ergonomic health hazards" exist.

"The ergonomics evaluation indicated that workers generally used good ergonomics practices while picking nail, siding, and molding orders for customers. The workers took the time to avoid reaching across pallets when lifting, adjusted the height of storage and delivery pallets to enable lifting at waist height, and slid or rolled loads to the front edge of pallets before lifting," the report says.

However, the report concluded that order-pickers could face an elevated risk of back and other musculoskeletal injuries if the volume of work increased or if workers strayed from their current safe work practices. The examiners recommended using mechanical or vacuum lifting devices, job rotation and reducing the size of the bundled building materials, which range in weight from 48 to 64 pounds.

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