Repetitive Strain Injury is a danger faced by many of the operatives working within the food industry. In this article, we explore the role of ergonomic equipment in helping to safeguard against it.

The 2019 Labour Force Survey revealed that in the UK alone, there are over 200,000 cases of work-related upper limb disorders every year, with these disorders directly related to Repetitive Strain Injury. The survey also called on findings from The Health and Safety Executive, estimating that 2.6 million working days were lost in 2017/18 due to such injuries, with an average of 14 days lost for each case.

As an industry that relies heavily upon operatives who can carry out physical, demanding, and repetitive jobs, it’s important that we understand the dangers of Repetitive Strain Injury, along with the most effective ways to safeguard against it. Failing to do so could result in the following:

  • Your operatives will be at risk of serious and even lifechanging injuries
  • Your site will find it difficult to retain employees
  • Your site will have to cover the cost of employee absence and a loss of working days
  • Your site could be in breach of health and safety standards – at risk of a fine, corrective measures, or even closure

With this in mind, we have addressed five areas where Repetitive Strain Injury could be a problem for your operatives, exploring ergonomic equipment solutions for each aspect of your operation.

1. Shovelling and Scooping

The shovelling and scooping of potentially heavy ingredients involves a repetitive action that has the potential to strain the arms, hands, back, shoulders, and even knees of your operatives. When it comes to shovels, one of the best ways to avoid this is to opt for an ergonomically designed handle that reduces the need for undue bending and encourages better posture than traditional shovel designs. The handles of the scoops at your site should also be ergonomic, ideally with built-in finger grooves that help with grip and ensure your operatives are holding their equipment at the right angle.

2. Wheeling and Steering

Next, you need to consider the process of ingredients and products being wheeled across your site. Here, ergonomically designed food handling containers will be essential. After all, your operatives will likely be moving heavy amounts on a regular basis.

A good example of an ergonomically designed food handling container is a EuroBin with a raised handle. Working in tandem with the diamond wheel pattern at the base of the Eurobins, this feature allows for extra manoeuvrability and ease of steering. You should also look into dollies for your Interstacking Bins and Trays. Not only will this make your operation more efficient, allowing your operatives to move greater amounts in one go, it will also reduce the risks of RSI, with your operatives wheeling materials smoothly across the factory floor instead of being forced to lift and carry them.

3. Lifting and Carrying

You would be hard pressed to find a site that doesn’t rely on buckets across its hygiene and production teams. From the transport of ingredients to the cleaning of your factory floors, buckets are an essential piece of equipment. However, any item that requires frequent carrying also has the potential to increase the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury. This will all depend on the design of the bucket and whether or not it was made with repeated use in mind.

Ideally, the buckets at your site will have ergonomic handles that make them comfortable to carry. Your operatives will also be grateful for a pouring spout, as this feature will make it easier to empty out the contents of the bucket without having to tip it as far.

You should also look out for buckets with a ‘balanced’ design that stops it from banging against the legs or knees of your operatives when it is being carried. Although this is a separate concern to Repetitive Strain Injury, it is possible that your operatives will resort to carrying buckets at an awkward angle if the alternative is extreme discomfort.

4. Cleaning, Scrubbing, and Scraping

Even with the best equipment available, applications such as cleaning, scrubbing, and scraping will always require a certain amount of physical effort from your operatives. However, with access to high quality utensils, your team will find it easier to carry out their duties and will be less likely to injure themselves or feel the effects of repetitive strain.

Once again, ergonomic handles are a must, making it easier for your operatives to grip the equipment correctly – encouraging the body’s natural positioning to diminish stress and eliminate discomfort.

You should also endeavour to reduce the amount of physical effort your operatives have to exert. Say your team is regularly charged with cleaning stubborn substances off the factory floor. At some sites they would be expected to kneel down with a handheld scraper; however, there is also the option of using a metal scraper that has been designed with the cleaning of floors in mind – attached to a long handle that eliminates the need for bending. There are even floor scrapers that are shaped to support the easy cleaning of corners, saving your operatives the strain of twisting to an awkward angle.

5. Sweeping, Mopping, Squeegeeing and High Reach Cleaning

High reach equipment, flexible brushheads and telescopic handles will all come in handy when it comes to cleaning the walls and ceilings of your factory. Unlike standard equipment, they will help your operatives to clean hard-to-reach areas without straining themselves, especially across the shoulders, arms, and back. Another clever design option comes in the form of nylon reinforced polypropylene handles, which are also suited to the cleaning of your factory floors. Despite being able to withstand the daily demands of factory life, these handles are lightweight enough to reduce fatigue, as your operatives won’t have to carry as much weight.

6. Writing

Writing is one of the most common causes of Repetitive Strain Injury, so it’s vital that you encourage the operatives at your site to consider the positioning of their fingers when holding a pen. They should also be taking a moment to stretch out their hands if they ever experience stiffness or a sharp pain.

Another important step is to ensure the pens at your site offer a firm writing experience – easy to use without your team having to press down at an awkward angle. You should also consider opting for pens with a textured surface that supports grip, with some pens even contoured for the thumb and finger.

Ultimately, the best defence against Repetitive Strain Injury is preventative. Instead of waiting for your operatives to complain about sub-par equipment and the impact it is having on their health, you need to pre-empt any issues with ergonomic designs. Training and effective management will also play an important role, encouraging your operatives to use their utensils correctly and to adhere to your site’s health and safety measures at every turn. 

As you move forward with this project, the Klipspringer team would be happy to provide support. You can contact us on 01473 461800 or Alternatively, you can use the form below to arrange a free consultation.  

If you would like further guidance relating to the advice shared in this article, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.