Ergonomic Guidelines - Using Four-Wheel Carts in Roofing, Part One - December 2022

Fri, Dec 09, 2022 at 8:00AM

Dr. Ken-Yu Lin and Dr. Zhenyu Zhang, SHARE Lab, College of Built Environments, University of Washington

Keeping employees safe is of paramount importance to your business, not only to ensure your operations run smoothly, but to limit workers’ comp claims. Your employees are your most important asset, so keeping them safe and properly trained is essential. But not all injuries occur on the rooftop or job site. These guidelines focus on the proper use and maintenance of four-wheel carts and provide insight and tips for employee safety – an important tool to share with your team.

Overexertion in Cart Operation

Manual carts are being used every day in the roofing industry to transport materials. However, cart handling is a physically demanding task and could cause overexertion when pulling and pushing, a leading cause of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). In the U.S. construction industry, overexertion from pulling and pushing accounts for about 11.2 percent of lost workdays involving WMSDs.

How can overexertion caused by cart handling impact your company?

A review of injury logs from a commercial roofing contractor (with more than 120 employees) found that overexertion caused by cart handling created:

■ Substantial economic burden – cart handling had directly caused 7 out of 40 total WMSDs over four years. These injuries imposed an economic burden of $65,405 in medical and indemnity cost. The average lost time and average cost per claim were 21.2 days and $9,430 respectively.

■ High employee turnover – 71 percent of overexertion in cart handling happened to new workers, where 57 percent of them left the company after the injury. This challenged the company’s ability to build and retain a young workforce.

■ Low employee morale – workers perceived cart operations as strenuous and attributed low morale and reduced productivity to the malfunction of carts.

How can guidelines help you prevent overexertion when handling carts?

The guidelines provide a series of recommendations to help you incorporate ergonomic principles into the process of cart handling:

■ When to replace aged carts

■ Which tire to select to prevent injury and improve

■ How to set up a good workspace for cart handling

■ How to pre-plan cart handling tasks with proper team pulling and pushing and job rotation.

The guidelines also illustrate the benefits you can expect from adopting these recommendations. When you develop intervention programs to improve the practice of cart handling, the information on the benefits will help you justify your suggestions and win support from senior managers and workers. Read more.

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