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Manual handling of loads and automation
As experts in the field of automation, we will discuss the risks associated with the manual handling of loads and how the European laws regulate this matter.
At European level, Directive 90/269 EC defines the manual handling of loads as the action of transporting or supporting a load by one or more workers. These operations include lifting, laying, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving a load and may involve back-lumbar risks for workers, especially if the ergonomic conditions are unfavourable.
In order to prevent the risks associated with the manual handling of loads, the employer must take appropriate organisational measures or use mechanical equipment. The aim is to avoid the need for workers to manually move loads. Where manual handling of loads cannot be avoided, the employer must take appropriate organisational measures or provide workers with the appropriate means to reduce the risk.
As the Directive explains, the list of appropriate means to assess the risk associated with the manual handling of loads takes into account: the load characteristics (weight, dimensions, stability, initial location), the physical effort required, the characteristics of the working environment (free space, pavement, temperature) and the requirements related to the activity (frequency of activity, rest periods, distances and lifting times).
Manual handling of loads may pose health risks as it stresses the spine, which is an unsuitable base lever for lifting. Factors such as applied force, posture and repetition of movements can cause fatigue and damage to the locomotor system. These risks include sprains, low back pain, herniated discs, muscle tears and severe back injury.
To avoid such risks, it is advisable to lift loads with the back straight, so as to minimize the effort on the vertebral discs. It is however recommended not to lift loads greater than 30 kg.
In addition to the importance of the physical fitness of the workers involved in the manual handling of loads, the document stresses the importance of prevention measures and correct behaviour. These include mechanization or automation of lifting and load transport processes, the use of manual or motorized mechanical push equipment, the development of safe working procedures and compliance with the correct practices during work.
The automation and mechanization of the lifting and transport processes is the best way to eliminate the risk associated with the manual handling of loads, thus protecting the health of workers, especially the spine. The use of suitable mechanical equipment reduces the risk of strength and physical effort and contributes to a safer working environment.
Palletizing robots can bring many significant benefits to counteract the risks associated with manual handling of loads.
Firstly, the use of palletising robots significantly reduces the need to involve workers in the physical handling of loads. These robots are designed to grab, lift, transport and position loads efficiently and safely, preventing human operators from performing such demanding and potentially risky tasks. As a result, the risk of stress injury and overload on the spine and musculoskeletal system of workers is significantly reduced.
In addition, palletizing robots are able to operate consistently and precisely. Thanks to their programming, they can ensure uniform handling of loads, avoiding sudden movements or incorrect postures that could cause injury to anyone involved in the manual handling of loads.
The automated nature of palletizing robots also results in increased speed and the ability to work continuously, unlike human activity which may require frequent breaks to avoid fatigue. This improves the overall efficiency of the entire load handling process, optimizing production and reducing machine downtime.
Finally, the adoption of palletizing robots helps to improve the quality of work, freeing employees from repetitive and tiring tasks. This allows workers to focus on more creative, strategic and value-added tasks, increasing professional satisfaction and overall organization productivity.
In conclusion, the implementation of palletizing robots represents a smart investment to mitigate the risks associated with manual cargo handling. Thanks to their precision, reliability and safety, these robots can protect the health of workers.
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