Research center helps reduce risk of injury and increase productivity of distribution center employees

Source: Material Handling Industry of America

Jan 07, 2011

The Material Handling Industry of America's (MHIA) first-ever direct funding of material handling and logistics research has resulted in the development of a Distribution Ergonomics Research Center (DERC) at Ohio State University (OSU). The research grant is provided by MHIA through its College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE).

Dr. Carolyn Sommerich and Dr. Stephen Lavender of OSU established the DERC using the $50,000 grant to develop and evaluate ergonomic interventions (methods, tools, equipment, processes, etc.) that will allow distribution center workers to work more efficiently and safely. The long term objective is to address common ergonomic issues that exist across Distribution Center (DC) operations within three commodity sectors: Grocery, Apparel, and General Merchandise.

As part of this project, OSU conducted focus groups with managers and safety personnel from distribution organizations in the Midwest and Eastern portions of the country. Organizations indicated which ergonomic issues were most important to them such as reaching, lifting, and repetitive motions. Possible interventions (process changes and equipment) were then identified by the study organizations as well as industry organizations providing ergonomic solutions.

Results of the research shows that there are a number of intervention opportunities available to distribution centers that can be used to address existing ergonomic issues that are common within and across distribution commodity sectors. The intervention concepts developed by the study organizations can help reduce the biomechanical loads experienced by DC employees, thereby reducing their risk of injury and potentially allowing DC employees to be more productive.

"MHIA is proud to support this important research which will contribute significantly to the body of knowledge on ways to improve the safety and productivity of warehouses and distribution centers," says Daniel Quinn, Material Handling Industry Vice Chairman - Education Planning & Professional Development.

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