If you just cannot hear “ergonomics“ anymore…

Gehörschutz… it’s maybe because your conveyor technology is way too noisy.

When it comes to ergonomics, many people think in terms of comfortable office furniture. But what about the people working in your distribution centre?

It’s safe to assume that those who commission a distribution centre are not the ones who work there afterwards. This explains why the potential for ergonomic optimisation remains largely untapped, in particular with regard to noise exposure.

Not surprisingly, the movement of goods inside a distribution centre causes a certain level of noise. But just like other things in life, it’s the dosage that makes the poison. Anything above 90 dB will cause permanent damage in your hearing. In comparison: normal conversation takes place at 60-65 dB. (Please remember that decibel are measured logarithmically, so the sound pressure increases by the factor of 30 between 60 dB and 90 dB, not just by 50%).

Those who operate a distribution centre need to be aware of additional costs arising from noise exposure at the workplace: On one hand, productivity decreases, on the other hand, further expenses are necessary to provide noise protection.

From the point of view of the employees, constant exposure to loud noises at the workplace will lead to headaches, insomnia and nervousness.

Besides, even a moderate noise level will decrease concentration, the subjective well-being and performance in general. Noise is first and foremost a stress factor, with all the known consequences.

A high level of noise around an order picking workstation will almost immediately lead to lower through put and higher error rates, in the medium and long term it will result in more frequent sickness absence, an unhappy workforce and higher fluctuation.

But that is merely the beginning, because once the noise level at a workplace is constantly beyond the threshold of 80 dB, the employer has to comply with further obligations according to the European Noise Directive 2003/10/EC.

For example, it is mandatory for a company to supply its staff with ear protectors. In addition, the company needs to organise consulting services and preventive medical check-ups. Obviously, all of this leads to higher expenses.

It’s about time then to take a closer look at the noise level in your distribution centre, but from an ergonomic point of view. To cut to the chase: there’s a load of options available to prevent noise development.

For instance, you could employ silent conveyor technology to save your staff from noise exposure. These systems, which are already on the market, are able to cut the noise by 80%, hence reaching a normal conversation level. One of the ways they archive this is by lowering noise emissions from stoppers and transversal transfers to less than 65 dB.

To enjoy these results, you should only use containers suitable for silent conveyor technology. The base of the container is crucial as far as noise emissions are concerned. In combination with the right roller distances on the conveyor, noise development will remain low.

In my opinion, the health of your staff and the ROI of your distribution centre would both benefit from paying more attention to noise reduction measures. Why not talk to your intralogistics supplier about this, the next time you want to purchase or retrofit conveyor technology?

Do you have some experiences with employees suffering from noise exposure? How did their performances improve after reducing the noise development at their workplaces? Let un know by commenting below!

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