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June 26, 2024

Dry Material Handling Ergonomics: Reduce Workplace Injuries with the Right Equipment

What Are the Ergonomic Hazards of Material Handling?

Ergonomic hazards in material handling are a significant concern in the workplace. These hazards often arise from tasks that require repetitive motion, awkward postures, heavy lifting, and prolonged periods of standing or sitting. Such activities can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis. Workers handling material in manual operations, where they’re tasked with lifting and dumping 50lb bags of material, are particularly at risk. The frequent lifting and maneuvering of these heavy materials can strain the back, shoulders, and arms, leading to chronic pain and long-term injury.


The True Cost of Workplace Injury

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.” Workplace injuries, particularly those related to poor ergonomics, have significant financial and operational impacts. Amerisafe is a great resource that breaks down the true cost of a work injury


Direct Costs

Amerisafe reports that the average direct cost of a workplace injury is $40,000. This includes: 

  • Medical expenses
  • Compensation payments


Indirect Costs

Conservative estimates place indirect costs at two times that of direct costs. So, if your direct costs are$40,000, your indirect costs are likely to be $80,000 or more. Indirect costs include: 

  • Loss of productivity 
  • Administrative time spent to complete incident reports
  • Procuring external resources (legal counsel, consultants, etc.)


The total cost of a single MSD can be substantial, often exceeding hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, injuries can lead to decreased employee morale and increased turnover, further affecting a company’s bottom line. Investing in ergonomic solutions not only enhances worker safety but also yields financial benefits by reducing these associated costs.

The above illustration depicts the significance of hidden indirect costs associated with workplace injuries. Image Credits: Amerisafe Group


What Does OSHA Say About Ergonomics?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides comprehensive ergonomic guidelines to help employers create safer work environments. OSHA emphasizes the importance of identifying ergonomic hazards and implementing solutions to minimize the risk of injury. 


According to OSHA, employers should: 

    • Conduct regular ergonomic assessments
    • Train employees on proper lifting techniques
    • Redesign workstations to promote better posture and reduce repetitive strain

At FormPak, we believe that redesigning workstations to eliminate heavy lifting altogether is the single most effective way to reduce risk for your employees and your operation. 


How Can You Reduce the Risk of Injury in Material Handling? 

Know the Risks

50lb bags aren’t the only hazardous material handling practice to be aware of. Small drums and boxes pose similar risks. Because of their bulky shape, they require awkward lifting techniques and postures that put workers at risk of injury — no matter how careful they’re being.

Although less commonly used, gaylord boxes are also a workplace hazard. These bulky containers require people to bend in awkward positions and wrestle with the tabs to assemble and dismantle the boxes. The postures required to work with gaylord boxes put employees at risk of muscle strain.


Automated Equipment = Ergonomic Equipment:

Making the switch to automated equipment and upskilling your workforce from general laborers to machine operators is one of the best things you can do for your operation. It streamlines the workflow by taking human error and heavy manual labor out of the equation. 


Example: Food Production

As an example, let’s take a look at food production. We work with many protein processors that mix spice blends for meat (like chicken or sausage). It’s not uncommon for companies to use manual processes for material handling. That means employees are lifting 50lb bags of spices and dumping it into industrial blenders. The primary problem is that manual lifting to this degree is not something an individual can do long term—it’s not about if these employees will get injured, but when. The secondary problem is that relying on people to keep count of how many bags they’ve dumped in leaves significant room for error. 


Bulk Bags and Bulk Material Handling Equipment

Both problems in the above scenario can be solved with a better material handling system. At FormPak, we’ve dedicated our entire

 business to developing automated bulk material handling systems for this purpose. We manufacture bulk bags (also called Super Sacks) along with user-friendly loaders and unloaders with custom scale and conveyor configurations. 

The image to the right is example of a system that uses bulk bags to store material along with unloaders that automatically take the material from the bags and distribute it into a process. In this case, the equipment is made to measure out spices from various bulk bags and combine them into a blender to create spice blends.



The video below demonstrates how easy our systems are to operate:


Get Free Bulk Equipment Schematics

To get a better idea of how our systems could fit in your operation, connect with our engineering team for a free no-obligation drawing.