News & Blog

August 23, 2016

Ergonomics Pays : A Series On Lowering Costs in the Workplace : Manual Material Handling and Tool Access

When it comes to handling materials at a work bench, the ideal place to position components is in a zone reachable by each arm (seen as the orange zone in the figure below). Operators can reach articles in this zone without having to turn their bodies. They should ideally be able to adjust any elements located there to their needs via pivot arms with two or three joints. This high-degree of flexibility keeps reaching distances to a minimum and reduces the musculoskeletal strain on the employees while increasing productivity.


Items used less frequently can be located in the extended zone (seen as the light blue section in the figure above), which also stretches away from the bench. This zone can incorporate mobile picking trolleys, which – if they are height adjustable – can enable operators to alternate between sitting and standing. The core activity in the process – often the activity that generates added value – should take place in the two-handed zone (seen as the green zone in the figure above). This is where the employee’s visual acuity is at its best.

Information that is posted at the work bench should be arranged by importance, so the most important notices are closer to the operator. It is important to remember that operators can also direct their gaze upward. A user should be able to view information he/she needs regularly without having to turn his/her head and upper-body.


When it comes to accessing tools, every tool should have an allotted place and be easy to grip. This results in efficient reaching motions that cut the amount of time users spend looking for tools and changing their grips.

Ergonomic elements that have been developed for manual material handling and tool access include stable pivot arms with movable joints, containers with rounded edges and corners, and operating methods that are reliable and safe.