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Reducing injuries when handling materials in the workplace

Workers in retail establishments like grocery stores can become injured when lifting products and moving items from a delivery truck to a sales floor. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers ways for employees in Illinois to avoid musculoskeletal injuries like sprains and strains.

NIOSH notes that musculoskeletal injuries affect retail and wholesale workers more than those in other industries, and this type of injury may lead to less productivity and more time away from work for injured workers. Using lift-assist devices to transport products to the sales floor can reduce the amount of sprains and strains.

When workers must handle material manually, NIOSH recommends forming a plan to detect and resolve issues that could lead to injuries. An employer can talk to workers about potential safety hazards, observe the activities workers perform regularly and use the NIOSH Manual Material Handling Checklist when trying to identify ways to improve safety.

Next, employers should evaluate areas that need improvement and prioritize which safety updates to make first based on factors like level of risk, frequency of accidents and complaints. An employer can then start making changes that will meet the demands of a job without exceeding a worker's capabilities. After making improvements, an employer needs to evaluate each change and gauge its effectiveness. Positive changes might eliminate previous risk factors and reduce fatigue and injuries.

After a workplace injury takes place, an employee may feel concerned about future bills and continuing to earn a living. Workers' compensation could provide temporary wages while one heals or cover medical expenses for an on-the-job injury. In the event that a worker cannot return to the same job, he or she may receive benefits that allow for new job training.

Source: EHS Today, "Working in the ‘Power Zone’ (and Other Safe Material Handling Tips for Retailers)", Josh Cable, December 01, 2014

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