RPCs’ Ergonomic Design Can Support Store Efficiency and Employee Safety

SS_Safety_Job#1Workplace injuries occur every day in businesses across the country. In fact, in 2015, companies reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In grocery stores, common types of injuries include muscle strain, back strain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, knife cuts and shoulder injuries. Employees engaged in stocking functions are particularly at risk of injury due to the lifting and movement required in their roles.

No one wants to see workers get hurt, and workplace injuries not only harm individuals, but affect stores financially, too. When stores take steps to improve ergonomics in workers’ environments, it benefits employees and the store.

“Grocery stores that have implemented injury-prevention efforts focusing on musculoskeletal and ergonomic concerns have reported reduced work-related injuries and associated workers’ compensation costs,” according to OSHA’s Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores. “Fewer injuries can also improve morale, reduce employee turnover, encourage employees to stay longer and discourage senior employees from retiring early. Workplace changes based on ergonomic principles may also lead to increased productivity by eliminating unneeded motions, reducing fatigue and increasing worker efficiency. Healthier workers, better morale, and higher productivity can also contribute to better customer service.”

Much of OSHA’s guidelines address practices that can improve a store’s ergonomic environment, and proper lifting is a recurring theme. Yet anyone who’s ever tried to heft a corrugated box fully loaded with product knows not all packaging is designed for ergonomic lifting. However, RPCs are designed to protect not only the product packed in them but the workers who handle them as well.

Smarter design means safer workers

In addition to rigid sides and lattice construction that help protect the quality of produce, eggs, meat and dairy, RPCs have numerous ergonomically designed features intended to protect workers, including:

Smarter handholds — Each RPC has well-designed handholds on at least two sides, and many have handholds on all four sides of the reusable plastic container. Tosca puts handholds on all four sides of its RPCs used for higher pack weights because we know more weight means more potential for injury. More handholds encourage workers to vary how they handle the RPC and reduces the repetition of motion that can lead to injury. While some corrugated boxes may have handholds on two sides of the container, those handles may not hold up during shipping, especially if a box get exposed to moisture. What’s more, when the cooling and ventilation holes in corrugated produce boxes are used as handholds, the integrity of the box sidewall can be compromised.

Our RPC handholds are located along the top perimeter to allow workers to lift with less bending and experience more stability while carrying and handling loads. They’re large enough to accommodate workers wearing gloves, and a small palm grip space accommodates a variety of hand sizes. The smooth interior surfaces are also more comfortable to grip.

They can take the cool — Corrugated boxes often can’t withstand the cooling methods used to preserve perishables. Moisture from the cooling process can break down corrugated and weaken its structural integrity. A collapsed box is difficult to hold, which can result in injuries throughout the supply chain, from the supplier to the distribution center to the store. RPCs aren’t affected by moisture or high humidity, so they won’t lose their structural integrity even when wet. The handholds will not tear out like corrugated can.

Superior stackability — Corrugated boxes typically don’t have an integrated stacking design unless it is a five-down box with FBA tabs. These tabs, designed to facilitate stacking, are only useful when just one size and style box is going on a pallet. While that may be great for the shipper, it’s bad for the supply chain because store loads consist of many sizes and styles of boxes with tabs that won’t line up. RPCs work better in both the column-stack and cross-stack fashion because of a standardized footprint. What’s more, a pallet full of cross stacked RPCs doesn’t require corner boards or stretch wrap to stabilize it, so labor and associated injury risks are reduced.

Easier breakdown — Before disposing of corrugated, boxes must be broken down with a sharp cutter, putting workers at risk of cutting injuries. RPCs latch and unlatch easily, so collapsing them does not require using a box cutter, tearing through tape or breaking glued flaps.

When it comes to improving efficiency and reducing worker injury, the packaging you choose makes a big difference. RPCs have been designed with ergonomics in mind, making it easier for workers to handle them — and to achieve greater efficiency with less risk of injury.