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Sep 2016

Package Handlers: Improving safety for warehouse and delivery


stressed package handler surrounded by boxes

Hazards abound in the world of package handlers. In the warehouse, workers are prone to chronic back injuries, strained muscles, and a variety of other musculoskeletal injuries. Delivery drivers face some of the same hazards. However, they also deal with driving hazards, dangerous canines, weather conditions, and other dangers. So, how do you keep your workers safe both in the field and in the warehouse?

Hazards to Focus on

Working as a package handler requires strength, endurance, and dexterity. Due to the physical nature of the job, musculoskeletal injuries are common. Employers can suffer from a variety of ailments; such as pulled muscles, repetitive stress injuries, and fractures. In addition to musculoskeletal injuries, warehouse workers are often working in a cold environment. The cold temperatures can decrease muscle flexibility, and increase the chance of injury.

Delivery drivers face a number of other hazards in addition to the hazards that coincide with the physical nature of the job. Not only does being on the roadway present a world of danger, but delivery personnel also face the threat of household dogs, isolation from working alone, and the effects of inclement weather.

Mitigating Hazards in the warehouse setting

Reducing the accident and injury rates in the warehouse is a challenging task. Employees lift, manipulate, and transport hundreds of packages a day. All it takes is one moment of poor form, improper posture, or slippage, and an injury can occur.

Training is essential to preventing workplace injuries. Many musculoskeletal injuries are a result of repeated stress through improper lifting techniques and poor posture. Training should be a cornerstone in the development of healthy and sustainable work techniques. Educating workers on proper lifting techniques and emphasizing their importance is an important first step.

General employee health is a major factor in reducing the rate of workplace injuries. Workplace wellness programs, especially physical fitness, can keep employees prepared for the rigors of the job. Daily exercise is key to the health and strength of muscles, and proper nutrition will replenish and repair tired muscles. Additionally, cardiovascular exercise will enable employees to work throughout the day with limited fatigue. Implementing a workplace wellness program can improve the workers’ physical condition, and help reduce the number of musculoskeletal injuries.

Employers may also wish to implement a stretching or warmup requirement for all package handlers. Cold temperatures in the workplace can lead to the tightening of muscles and subsequent injuries. Employees who stretch and warm up before their shift, or after a break, will decrease their chances of pulling or straining a muscle or tendon.

Safety for Delivery Drivers

Package handlers in the field will also benefit for wellness programs and training. However, delivery personnel should also be wary of other hazards. Employers should provide training to address hazards such as aggressive canines, vehicle breakdowns, and inclement weather.

Aggressive dogs pose a significant threat to delivery drivers and package carriers. When possible, employees should be aware of houses that have an aggressive canine. Communication between drivers, or even a simple ‘dog check-box’ on the order form available to the customer can help make drivers aware of a dog’s presence. Additionally, employers should provide training on the proper actions to take when confronted by an aggressive canine.

Delivery drivers often work alone, and sometimes are required to make deliveries in secluded areas. A vehicle breakdown, bad weather, or other mishap could strand the individual. It is crucial that employers have protocol in place for situations in which a driver may be stranded, injured, and alone. Ultimately, communication is the most important factor. Employees should always have a line of communication open to them.

Employers may also wish to hold seminars and training sessions on the dangers of distracted driving. Texting, phone calls, paperwork, and eating all factor in to distracted driving. Employers need to emphasize the importance of roadway safety. Employers should also provide every driver with the proper emergency equipment- such as a flashlight, medical equipment, etc.- in case an accident occurs.

Improving workplace safety for package handlers, both in the warehouse and in the field, can be a daunting task. Still, employers can make start with small changes. Protecting workers from basic musculoskeletal injuries, canines, distracted driving, and weather conditions involve simple changes that can make a huge difference.  Make safety a priority today.  

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