Manual packing in the brick industry
Workers in the brick manufacturing industry still suffer from injuries relating to repetitive manual handling during packing and inspecting operations. Over the past 20 years the rate has fallen from 44% to approx.20% of all injuries in the brick industry. This is largely a result of increased automation, but also as a consequence of the more widespread adoption of improved work practices.
Processes that present a high level of risk are….
- Manual inspection & packing of fired bricks by floor to floor packing.
- Manual inspection & packing of fired bricks from kiln car to monorail.
- Manual inspection & packing of fired bricks from conveyor to floor/jig.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations require you to assess the risk from handling operations. Information about how to assess the risk can be found at MSD - Manual Handling - where the HSE have developed tools to help employers analyse lifting and moving (MAC tool), repetitive tasks like twisting, bending, and repeated movements (ART tool) and a push pull tool
Here are some practical tips that you should consider to reduce the risks associated with manually handling bricks, However if a risk is identified, a full risk assessment should be carried out….
- strip down from the front of a kiln pack before removing bricks from the back.
- present kiln packs so that they are not higher than average shoulder height.
- position packs so that packers do not have to reach below average knee height to a kiln pack or when placing bricks in a jig or dispatch pack.
- packing from kiln cars passing underneath packing stations is a particular problem and should be discouraged as it makes packers reach below their feet. It may be appropriate for packers to work in pairs for this part of the operation, one standing at deck level and passing up to a colleague at pack level. Any opportunity for kiln car movement must be tightly controlled before considering this action.
- control the thermal environment to avoid temperature extremes. Provide ventilation to prevent excessive temperatures.
- If each brick is inspected or, if to reduce the load lifted in any one lift the number of bricks handled is limited, packs should be designed accordingly, eg consider bed or flat-set bricks, v set-on-edge types.
- arrange shift patterns to spread the load on packers, particularly to avoid prolonged exposures including overtime over many days.
- encourage rotation between packer positions, where necessary. It may be appropriate to include ancillary operators such as fork lift truck drivers or shrink-wrap operators in the rotation cycle, according to their ability and competence.
- ensure packers take regular breaks throughout the day.
- reduce the risk arising from practices which encourage packers to work excessively fast in order to leave early.(e.g. job and finish - should not be employed)
- discourage competition among packers, particularly where faster packing by an individual affects the ability of other individuals to meet their targets.
- to reduce the likelihood of packers overstressing their wrists, a maximum brick lift dependent on either the weight or the number of bricks may be useful.
- monorail packers should work as a team and take account of the pace of the slowest packer.
- where manual packing is needed in mechanised systems (eg due to unusually high waste rates), steps should be taken to limit the risks to individuals who will not be accustomed to this work.
- In some cases a brick-grab may be the preferred means of brick transfer from kiln pack into the brick pack.