Why Amazon’s Focus On Injury Prevention Will Likely Improve Ergonomics For All Workers
When Amazon announced its new WorkingWell program — an effort to improve employee health issues and reduce the risk of injuries — in May 2021, the company’s high-profile emphasis on ergonomics established its leadership position among competitors. The company, perhaps in recognition of an aging workforce, increased obesity, rising workman’s comp costs, and growing market pressure to be more productive with fewer employees, is taking a proactive look at ergonomics in its facilities.
Designed to cut workplace recordable incident rates by 50% in 2025, the program cost $300 million and has the potential for widespread impact far beyond the four walls of Amazon’s distribution centers. And other organizations are expected to take note.
The possibility of this effort being replicated by other companies was covered in a recent article in MHI Solutions, “A ‘Landmark Event’ Marks Growing Industry Interest in Improved Ergonomics.” The article notes that in the U.S., as opposed to Europe, clearly defined safety and ergonomic standards don’t exist. As a result, advances in worker ergonomics in the U.S. are driven by businesses. With Amazon’s ambitious initiative receiving so much attention, other companies are likely to follow suit with increased investments in ergonomic solutions to reduce injuries among their own workforces.
Amazon’s initial focus will be on implementing solutions that minimize the strains associated with lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy loads. Their objectives include eliminating the need for associates to bend over when loading or unloading a pallet and positioning work into a 30- to 40-inch ergonomic window to minimize personnels’ risk of hurting themselves. Additionally, by enhancing worker ergonomics, the cumulative impact of repetitive stress injuries is likely to be reduced. It’s likely, too, that Amazon has made the connection between improved ergonomics and improved productivity, the article notes.
As for what types of ergonomic solutions Amazon will be implementing, there are a variety of options available in the marketplace. Because one size does not fit all, companies like Amazon that are seeking technologies to reduce the risk of employee injuries should consider several factors. These include the application, the operation, their objective based on the workplace situation, and the physical strains experienced by the workers performing a specific task.
Looking for more ways to improve the ergonomics of your workforce? The members of the Ergonomic Assist Systems & Equipment (EASE) Industry Group of MHI offer a variety of checklists for free download, here.