Risk Management Assignment: Managing Safety at Packaging Warehouse
Task: Risk Management Assignment Brief: “You are the Safety and Risk Manager for a large packaging warehouse. The company has recently won two major contracts in succession, and with increased production, has been required to employ more staff and change the packaging of goods coming into the warehouse. Staff on the two new packing lines stand and work at fixed height benches and are cutting open boxes, removing, and packing small handheld products into new boxes. The boxes are then are placed onto the conveyor belt line and two employees take the boxes from the line and stack them onto two pallets on the ground at the end of the line. The job of pallet stacking is rotated among those working on the line. Once the pallets have been stacked to a height of around 1.5m a forklift truck removes them and brings new pallets to be filled. (For clarity, the forklift operations are not the focus of this assignment).
The assignment should consider the following two parts: Part A
In preparation for the ergonomic assessment of the new packing line, detail what ergonomic assessments you would carry out, noting:
1. The specific tasks you would focus on and why
2. The ergonomic tools you would use to assist you
3. The suggested/possible ergonomic improvements
Note: you are not expected to undertake a full ergonomic assessment.
Later, you return from annual leave and you discover the Production and Facilities Managers have ordered, purchased, and installed mechanical lifting aids for the end of each line. Both Managers are unhappy as production seems to have slowed down rather than increased, and the lifting aids are not always being used. They report to you that a member of staff “pressed the wrong button and dropped a number of boxes”. Fortunately, the boxes just missed a member of staff’s foot. You are asked to speak with staff to “fix the problem and get them to use the lifting aides properly”. During initial discussions, several staff says they feel the lifting aide takes longer than manual handling and is too complicated to use.
1. The ergonomic approach that would have improved the purchase, installation, and ultimate use of the mechanical lifting aid
2. Any potential breaches of health and safety law that could arise from the way the machinery has been brought into use
This assignment should be written as a report to the Chief Executive of the company, and you can make any reasonable assumptions about the company to help you complete the report in this style.
Risk Management Assignment Part A
1. Tasks I would focus on and why?
Ergonomics is the science that is concerned with the understanding of how human beings interact with different elements of their environment or system to ensure productivity by reducing fatigue, discomfort and the risks of injury (Salvendy, 2012). The entire packaging process is repetitive throughout the shift and is being done by several workers. These therefore mean that there is need for the workers to adapt to the tasks, the tools being used and their various work stations. In the case of this large packaging warehouse, ergonomics will be applied at strategic points to maximize on production. The specific tasks that I will focus on will include; packaging, placing on conveyor belts and stacking of boxes on pallets.
Packaging, the staff on the new packaging lines will be expected to stand and work at fixed height benches, cutting open boxes, removing and packing small handheld products into new boxes. These will be repetitive actions throughout a shift. Standing by itself over long periods of time without a space to lean on or take a break can take a toll on the spinal cord and the leg muscles, especially if it means they will be standing at a fixed station throughout. This therefore means that the workers will tire quick reducing their productivity levels. The fixed height of the work benches should be comfortable to a standard human height, to reduce the need to over bend or lifting your arm too high while working. This height should also take into consideration the ease of packaging new boxes, depending on the different sizes required. The tools being used to cut open the boxes should be efficient in terms of ease of handling and speed of cutting to reduce on frustrations and save time. Placing on conveyor belts, once the new boxes have been packaged they are placed on the belts to be sent to the stacking area. The efficiency of the conveyor belts should ensure that no boxes are stalling that may result in jam. Also the ease of moving these boxes from the working benches to the conveyor belts should also be considered (Kamat et al., 2017). Are the boxes too large to be comfortably carried by an average sized worker without distracting vision or being too heavy? If yes then how better can it be done? The distance from the work benches to the belt, is extra energy and time being spent there.
Stacking boxes onto pallets, this job will be rotated among those working on the conveyor belt line and the boxes are to be stacked up to a maximum height of 1.5 m. This means that there will be need for creation of efficient space for the rotation of workers without stalling the conveyor placing process and with as minimum injuries as possible. Also as the height of the stacked boxes increases, there will be need for a way for the workers to achieve that height without much strain.
2. Ergonomics tools I would use to assist me?
These are the tools that have been intentionally designed to be used repetitively and comfortably with reduced risks of injury (Schembera-Kneifei and Keil, 2016).
At the packaging area the following tools can be used;
Hydraulic work tables- These tables are easy to adjust in terms of height. They will be very efficient for the working areas because the workers’ height cannot be limited to a certain length meaning 0.9m is the standard comfortable work height but 0.7 is more comfortable for a much shorter height.
Adjustable packing desks- the tables will make it easier when packaging much larger boxes that might have required one to stand on a higher ground for easy packaging. Box cutters with special handles and modified blades- The special handles will increase the ease in grip and reduce the amount of strength to be used. Also the special handles will ensure that the cutters are held in a posture that will not strain the arm, enabling the activity to be done repeatedly over a longer period of time. Modified blades, will ensure that the blades can be stable while cutting for precision. Also they will ensure that they are easier to change once they become blunt.
At the conveyor belts the following tools can be used;
Stock picking carts- Carts integrated with fork pockets that allow them to carry heavy products from one corner of the warehouse to another. That means the workers can load the carts with the heavier boxes to place them on the conveyor belts. These save the extra energy that could have been used for big boxes.
At the stacking area the following tools can be used;
Lift tables- after a height of roughly 0.9m it becomes increasingly strenuous to stack boxes further and that means more energy is being used. Also maybe even some workers may not be able to achieve it. Lift tables will help efficiently stack the higher boxes without the workers having to bend over reputedly. This however means that extra space to accommodate it will have to be considered in the design.
3. The suggested ergonomic improvements?
Reduced strain in using the work tables in terms of visual and physical access by arms. That means that the workers at a comfortable height will get tired slower and their production levels will remain high for a longer period of time. Also the added visual relief gives room for efficiency a plus on the warehouse services.
The ease in cutting the boxes open reduces the time that would have otherwise been wasted waiting. With the cutting process made easier the possibility of frustrations is reduces and a happy environment is a good working environment.
Ease of stacking the pallets to the required height is also created.
The following is a report addressed to the Chief Executive concerning the safety of the workers in the packaging warehouse. Recent complaints by the Production and Facility managers indicate an increase in the number of near accidents between mechanical lifting aide machines and the workers in the warehouse. A worker was nearly injured by the dropping of boxes by a machine operator who placed the blame on lack of attention. The Safety and Risk Officer conducted an assessment on the situation and came up with the conclusion that the procurement of the lifting aides was done without sufficient training of the workers on efficient machine operations. The managers were not properly prepared to fully integrate the machines in their production system. This is especially evident in the minimal training period offered as well as the lack of machine related personal protective equipment such as safety boots. This in many ways can be attributed to be the main source of the problems in the warehouse. Some of the workers are reverting back to manually handling the packaging boxes, citing that the production line is too complex for their currentskill set. This has greatly affected the work morale of the workers thereby reducing the overall productivity in the warehouse. A more efficient method of assimilation of the lift aides into the production process should have been implemented (Dittmar, et al., 2021). There was need to first increase the confidence of the workers in the handling of the machines before they were fully integrated into the production process. Cognitive ergonomics should have been given priority by the design and plan team because machine operations are a cognitive load. Insufficient training ends up being a higher cognitive load that leads to stress as was evident in the responses of the workers.
The warehouse workers reported that they were given minimal operations training in the form of theoretical paperwork training on machine safety and control for a limited time period of four weeks (Gualtieri et al., 2021). This was in contradiction to the safety and health law that requires that the workers be given practical instructions over an unlimited period of time to ensure they are confident in handling the machines before they are fully integrated in the warehouse operations. Some of the workers indicated high stress levels arising from the working conditions in the warehouse. The increased production activities, over the past few months, are taking a toll on the workers mindset and leading to fatigue. The human reliability factor of the workers in the long run is therefore brought into focus by the above actions. The company will be required to conduct sensitization on the importance of mental wellbeing amongst its workers in order to curb on stress and mental strain problems. Certain mental biases such as assumptions, habits and confirmation, similarity, frequency and availability biases that arise due to mental strain are the major cause of accidents in the work place. The workers should undertake compulsory training to minimize on errors and increase efficiency in the production process.
The company should purchase machines that are user centered and friendly. This will go a long way in reducing the mental workload on the workers and increasing their productivity. This type of machines reduce the magnitude of human errors through the use of artificial intelligence systems that issue warnings and correct the errors made by external instructions. The machine’s system can also differentiate between internal errors and external errors and faults. Integration of such machines will go a long way in reducing the cognitive load of the production process in the warehouse workers (Mazlomi et al., 2011).
Decision making amongst the workers is a key method in reducing accidents and injuries in the workplace. One of the key ways of increasing decision making skills is through training and seminars. Training increases the cognitive capabilities of the workers thereby giving them a wide pool of information to source from during decision making. This will in the long run increase the production output of the workers and increase their confidence levels. The training therefore has to be of the right quality to ensure that only the useful and applicable information is passed on to the workers. The training will increase the self- esteem of the worker. For example, projected work instructions are more effective in increasing the self-esteem of the workers. For example, projected work instructions are more effective in the training of the workers as it breaks the information into understandable portions thereby reducing on memorization of information. Proper decision making is also dependent on critical thinking skills that allow the workers to navigate risks and uncertainty in the decision making process (Jafari et al., 2021). The worker is able to narrow down a list alternatives from the options present, the worker then weighs the evidence and chooses the best alternative that will solve the problem best.
The planning team failed to take into consideration the human-system interactions in the installations of the machines. These interactions are key factors in minimizing accidents and injuries in the workplace as well as increasing the quality and quantity of the produce. The installation of the machines was focused majorly on efficiency rather than the available human factors such as level of training and available skill sets. The work environment was designed with the human worker in mind (Read et al., 2021). The worker should be comfortable to ensure proper mental health guidelines are met. From the assessment, the company is therefore in contradiction of a large number of safety and health laws that govern industrial operations. The mistakes include the following: failure to issue personal protective equipment to the warehouse workers, inadequate training of the workers operating the machines and failure of the company to take a comprehensive insurance policy to cover the workers. The company has to therefore come up with sufficient policies and measures to rectify these mistakes before the occurrence of an accident that will have financial implications. The lack of personal protective equipment and insufficient training has already been reported to the local labor unions as per the notice sent to the Human Resource department.
Dittmar, A., Murray, D.M., van der Veer, G.C. and Witchel, H.J., 2021. Cognitive ergonomics: a European take on HCI. Interactions, 28(2), pp.88-92.
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