Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2005-0318-3006, BlueLinx Corporation, Bellingham, Massachusetts.
On July 29, 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request for a health hazard evaluation (HHE) from a Project Supervisor at the BlueLinx Corporation in Bellingham, Massachusetts. The request stated that approximately six material handlers in the company warehouse who pick orders for delivery to building supply retail outlets may have been at risk of back injuries or repetitive motion disorders. During December 12-14, 2005, NIOSH investigators conducted an opening conference, attended by representatives of BlueLinx management and Teamsters Local 653. After a general warehouse walk-through, we observed order picking work tasks specified in the HHE request. The NIOSH team consisted of two ergonomics specialists. The ergonomics evaluation indicated that workers generally used good ergonomics practices while picking nail, siding, and molding orders for customers. The workers took the time to avoid reaching across pallets when lifting, adjusted the height of storage and delivery pallets to enable lifting at waist height, and slid or rolled loads to the front edge of pallets before lifting. The employees were at elevated risk of injury from performing these jobs as measured by the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (NLE) and the Michigan 3-Dimensional Static Strength Prediction Program (3D SSPP) due to the weight of the objects lifted (which varied from 48 pounds to 64 pounds). Due to sound work practices and the pace of work, NIOSH investigators conclude that no immediate ergonomic health hazard exists at BlueLinx. However, the lifting jobs present an elevated risk for injury and could pose a health hazard in the future if the volume of work increases or if current preventive measures are not continued. Recommendations for reducing the risk of injury from lifting are contained in this report, including the use of lifting devices and reducing the weights of bundled building materials.