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Safer manual handling the Arco way

In the storage, handling and distribution business, injuries caused or made worse by past or present occupational duties are one of the industry's biggest health and safety issues.1 Arco, the UK's leading safety equipment and workwear supplier, has implemented a number of processes and procedures at its National Distribution Centre that are helping to reduce the risk of manual handling injury for around 250 employees.

Number crunching

Arco meets the needs of 110,000 customers across the UK through a centralised ordering system that is linked to the most advanced warehouse facility of its kind. At the National Distribution Centre (NDC) in Hull, thousands of safety products and workwear items, which range from a pair of earplugs to a large wheelbarrow, are manoeuvred in and out of the two-storey, 20,000 sq m building on a daily basis. Every day, the NDC receives 100 vehicles and 3 containers from the Far East at Goods Inward. Each week, Arco delivers to customers an average of 70,000 order lines in 36,000 parcels and 1,000 pallets, via carriers DHL.

World-class systems that reduce manual handling risk

“The Arco 'Day 1 order for Day 3 delivery' promise on our 16,000 stock items (SKUs) means that the NDC needs to be a very tightly run operation2,” explains Mike Butterworth, Interim Head of Logistics.” “When the NDC was designed, Arco was keen to incorporate world-class, mechanical systems that would facilitate the most efficient delivery system possible, whilst simultaneously optimising productivity and easing manual handling requirements. Ninety percent of Arco's 22,000 product lines items will fit into a plastic tote box measuring 600mm x 400mm. Each day, over 10,000 of these boxes are transported around the warehouse on an “intelligent” conveyor system. When an order is placed, the IT system assigns the product requirements to one or more of the tote boxes. The tote box is programmed with the required codes and will stop only at designated aisle locations so a picker can check the order and place the required product in the box. This not only saves time for the picker, it greatly reduces lifting and carrying. The system is extremely beneficial in terms of speed, accuracy and in the reduction of manual handling injury risk.”

Making work a better place through the introduction of strict vendor codes

Arco's purpose statement is to make work a better place– not just for its own people but for people everywhere. Demonstrating a commitment to this approach right down the supply chain, the fourth generation family business insists that all its vendors sign the Arco Code of Practice before trading is allowed to take place. This agreement requires Arco's suppliers to ensure that certain standards are met with regard to the health, safety, well-being and fair treatment of employees. Arco has recently become a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative to help further its impact on the performance of suppliers, particularly in developing countries.

To protect storage, handling and distribution staff from point of collection to delivery at the NDC, one of Arco's regulations is that pallets and packages shipped from vendors should not exceed 25kg. To help Goods Inward staff facilitate the safe removal of tightly packed items from containers and other vehicles, Arco deploys a rolling conveyor system that takes products effectively from container to the warehouse for its onward journey into a pallet.

A new style of training cuts injuries by 50%

“Our manual handling training has consistently followed the traditional approach of classroom style lectures and videos with guidelines to keep knees bent and a straight back when lifting,” added Simon Raywood, Arco's Health and Safety Manager. “However, we were still experiencing high numbers of back strain injuries so tried a different approach to training, through a company called Pristine Condition, which specialises in manual handling training. The company demonstrated a refreshing approach with much more job-specific and physical training involved. Having seen positive results in other companies they had trained, we took them on board to re-train 140 people at the NDC.”

“Although the trainers still educate the trainees in the physiology of the human body and the effects of bad practise in lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying, they arrive on site and actually go through the motions of each and every job where there is a risk of manual handling injury; indicating how to carry out that specific job without damaging the body in the process. They encourage a more natural way of lifting that minimises twisting and maximises use of the best muscle groups for that particular application. Our employees were given hands-on training by people who understood the realities of working in this kind of environment, and they responded very well. We have seen a 50% reduction in over 3-day manual handling injuries the last 12 months. The company also instructed several of our own induction trainers in a “train the trainer” exercise, which enables us to provide refresher courses to existing employees and induction training to new starters. It's been extremely worthwhile.”

This course of actions and a goal to achieve an even greater reduction in manual handling injuries demonstrates that Arco continues to break the mould in terms of making the workplace a better place. For more information, please visit www.arco.co.uk.

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