LIGHTWEIGHT battery electric lifters, available from Warehousing Equipment , increase efficiency and save back injuries.
The first lightweight lifters were developed in Sweden about 20 years ago for use in school kitchens which provide cooked midday meals for all students. Large heavy saucepans and produce needed to be lifted in a safe way.
The majority of lifters made today still come from Sweden although low cost less sophisticated copies are now being made in China.
Lightweight lifters are used to handle loads which can be picked up by a person i.e., less than 20kg but in most applications should not, particularly if the load must be positioned necessitating reaching.
Code of Practice for Manual Handling No. 25, 20 April 2000 states:
"The muscular effort required to lift, lower or carry a load depends on more than just the weight of the object. It is also determined by the postures, movements, forces, frequency and duration involved in the task.
“This means that even a relatively small weight may be difficult to lift and require the application of high force. Therefore, it is difficult to specify safe maximum weights that would apply to different tasks, or even to similar tasks done under different circumstances.
“As muscular effort increases, more stress is placed on structures in the body such as muscles, ligaments, joints and intervertebral discs. The greater the effort and stress on the body, the greater the risk of Muscular Skeletal Disorder (MSD).
“When assessing tasks involving lifting, lowering or carrying, bear in mind that, in general:
* The bigger, heavier or bulkier the load, the greater the effort required to handle it and the greater the risk
* The further the load is from the body, the greater the effort required and the greater the risk
* Lifting that requires poor posture puts more stress on the body and increases the risk
* The higher the loads need to be lifted, the greater the effort required and the greater the risk
* As frequency and duration increases, so does risk
* Lifting or carrying a load with one hand or to one side of the body puts more stress on the body than handling the load with both hands.”
Common examples of this are installing rolls of plastic film into printing machines and/or packaging machines. Often the roll is less than 10kg but must be loaded into the machine with the operators arms outstretched in front of the body. A very unsafe lift.
By fitting a boom on the lifter, the rolls can easily be inserted into the machine without any lifting by the operator.
Standard lifters generally come with a platform which can be raised to the level of a table or bench and the load being slid off the table and onto the platform or vice versa. Rollers fitted to the front and sides of the platform can make it even easier.
Mixing bowls up to 80kg from commercial mixers can be lifted and emptied without any exertion by the operator.
A key to the successful design of lightweight lifters is that they weigh approximately half the load that they are rated to lift which enable them to be easily manoeuvred even with a load. Being fitted with four swivel wheels allows them to move in any direction.
They are fitted with sealed batteries and trickle chargers which means no toxic fumes and no problem in overcharging batteries even when left plugged in over a weekend.
A wide range of standard attachments are available and custom built attachments for specific applications are also offered by several companies.
Lightweight lifters can provide a safe working environment in many cases and certainly can reduce the incidence of MSD in the workplace.
*Richard McKay is managing director of Warehousing Equipment Pty Ltd.