In California, many workplaces use conveyors. Although conveyors are typically associated with manufacturing plants, they are also widely used in agriculture, fulfillment centers, material handling and more. The primary reason for using them is eliminating or reducing worker injuries from carrying heavy or awkwardly shaped objects.
Risks that give rise to conveyor-related injuries
However, conveyors create ergonomic challenges that cause other repetitive motion injuries.
Conveyor geometry: Conveyors that are too wide or too high cause awkward postures when workers access objects on them. Repetitive trunk flexion or bending at the waist for low conveyors and stretching the arms above the shoulders to remove goods from excessively wide conveyors could cause injuries with long-term consequences.
Standing stress: Conveyors, like many other workstations, typically require workers to spend many hours on their feet. While standing is safer than sitting for many hours, gradual muscle, nerve and tendon damage build up due to repetitive motions even in a standing position.
Contact stress: Some versions of conveyors have a raised edge with which workers’ bodies make contact as they bend over to access the objects. The repetitive pressure on workers’ soft tissue could cause them harm.
Work pace: Workers have to work at a speed that matches that of the conveyor’s setting. They cannot adjust the speed, and serious injuries could result when they fall behind the conveyor’s pace. Working at an unmanageable pace could also lead to strenuous work-rest cycles.
These conveyor-related injuries are typically part of the repetitive stress category covered by the California workers’ compensation insurance program. However, these injuries are primarily progressive instead of single incident injuries. Workers should seek medical care when they suspect such work-related injuries. Furthermore, reporting it to the employer is also essential because claims filed after the deadline risk being declined.