by Dennis Larson
I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but over time we seem to gather more and more stuff that takes up space in the garage, closets, sheds, and cupboards. I’ve seen this happen to my grandparents, my parents, and now it’s happening to me. In my experience, the most commonly-used items are not stored or organized properly after being used; instead, we set them down in an easy-to-access location. In my case, the most commonly-used item is the charcoal BBQ and the associated briquettes that we wheeled back into the garage hastily after our last meal. This is all fine and dandy until I need to reach the paint can on the shelf behind the BBQ. With that BBQ in the way, I need to reach, which is bad for my back and shoulders.
So, what did I do? I took some time to organize this area by moving items onto the shelf and clearing space for the BBQ and briquettes against the wall. Now I can step closer to the shelf, so grabbing the paint can, or any item, from the shelf, will require less reaching. And the BBQ is accessible and quick to put away.
Putting my ergonomist hat on, I ran a biomechanical analysis to compare the loading before and after organizing the workspace. With the space organized, the effort required to lift the paint can off the shelf was reduced for the back and shoulders. My body was also more balanced when grabbing the paint can, so I was less at risk of slipping or accidentally becoming off-balanced.
Naturally, this concept also applies in the workplace! If you keep your work area clean and organized, you do not have to reach over things to complete the job, so you can keep loads closer to the body. An organized work space is also more efficient – even a few seconds of searching or reaching can be wasteful when a task is repetitive. The concept of “keeping the load close” is one of many best practices that we suggest.
When performing a best practices study for a client, we observe how the job is typically completed, and then we work with your employees to identify the tips and tricks that make the job easier. We perform a biomechanical analysis to show how these tips and tricks reduce loading on the body, and write up a nice report comparing the two work methods. If you want to find the best way to perform a job, we can help! Our biomechanical analysis tools can provide objective data and measurements, and the report provides a visual summary of the results.