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There is a lot of talk these days about ergonomics – the science of designing and arranging a person’s environment so that he or she can safely and easily perform in it. Car designers take great pains to locate buttons and levers within easy access of the driver. Commercial airliner cockpits are designed to assure that the pilot can properly fly the plane in comfort. Seats are designed and have adjustment features to assure that a person can get in or out of one without being injured.
It may appear to some that ergonomics is a comfort issue and it is. However, it is also a safety issue. That’s why ergonomics
is an essential part of forklift construction and design.
If you are a forklift driver or you have observed one, then you know that operating a lift can be a very uncomfortable and even painful endeavor. The driver spends hours sitting in a small seat in a confined area like a cage and needs to twist to one side or the other to watch for pedestrians and obstacles. He has to radically twist around to observe the right away when backing up the lift and needs to take other precautions to assure that he operates the lift safely.
Of course, the behavior of the driver and his state of mind are influences of how safely he will operate a vehicle. But if he hurts constantly or suffers a sharp pain when moving, that too becomes an element of how safely he can drive a lift.
The awkward position of the driver at any one time, the vibration and jolting of the lift itself, the repetitive nature of driving and more can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal symptoms that could, if not treated, cause a permanent disability.
The tortuous positions that a driver may settle into can result in neck, shoulder, upper back and forearm discomfort.
So it is just as important for the driver of a lift to know how to deal with these issues, as it is to deal with safety problems.
A forklift operator needs to take actions to assure his own comfort. For example, he should take some time out to stretch his legs, arms, shoulders, and neck for 30 seconds or so. He can’t just do it once or twice a day. It needs to be done throughout the day.
Drivers should be taught about good posture and be alerted to things they can do to alleviate or prevent pain. Here are some tips.
· Remove your wallet from your back pocket before sitting to reduce discomfort.
· Lean forward and shift hips to the back of the seat upon sitting down to properly position the spine into the correct three curve alignment.
· Slide the seat forward so the feet are resting comfortably and the steering wheel and pedals are within easy access.
· Tilt the seat backrest so it is leaning slightly backwards.
· Buckle up the forklift seatbelt.
The driver should also alert the warehouse manager to repair warehouse floor that cause the lift to jolt or aggravate physical discomfort. This includes making certain that the ramps between loading dock and trailers fit in place properly and that holes or rough surfaces of the floor are repaired.
Make certain that the forklift seat is comfortable to sit in. If the seat is worn, then purchase a replacement seat that include features that assure proper posture and comfort for the driver. Ergonomic seats now include features like:
· Leg, head, shoulder and neck protection
· A swivel base so that the driver can comfortably turn to either side.
· Armrests to avoid fatigue
· Suspension for comfort.
There is also an array of accessories or tools that reduce the need for twisting, turning and other uncomfortable movements including mirrors and CCTV cameras that can offer a rear view and sensors that lift forks to proper heights without straining.