The paper industry employs both transformative processes, as well as a significant amount of materials handling. From an ergonomics perspective, this means that employees should be trained in a variety of different safety policies and work methods which protect them not only from musculoskeletal injury, but also from exposure to the potentially hazardous chemicals hat are used in the manufacturing of paper.
Chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, which is used to bleach paper, and formaldehyde, which is used to add strength to paper products such as toilet paper and napkins, can be toxic to the human body as a result of repeated exposure. The vapors given off by both of these chemicals can be major irritants to the eyes and other mucous membranes. Sulfur dioxide is acidic, and it can also attack the lining of the throat and cause burns. Both are considered possible cancer-causing agents. In order to protect workers from accidental exposure to these chemicals, and also keep employees safe during their daily handling, it may be necessary to have workers wear gloves or suits which protect their skin from contact. Rubber or latex gloves can keep exposure low, and in areas where vapors are highly concentrated, hoods or masks which filter the gas out can help protect the respiratory systems of employees. This lowers the chances that they will inhale toxic fumes.
The production of paper is also traditionally an industry where significant amounts of product must be moved around a facility or warehouse on a daily basis. If workers are not familiar with ergonomic lifting or transport methods, then musculoskeletal injury can result. Employees should be trained to keep all of their lifting within their power zone – the area of the body located between the shoulders and the knees. This helps to reduce stooping and reaching, both of which can strain the back, shoulders and arms. If workers are required to stack or remove paper products from shelving, they should use portable, height-adjustable platforms which will allow them to keep their lifting within the power zone no matter which shelf they are working with.
When it comes to moving heavy pallets of paper products around the warehouse, motorized carts are preferable to those pushed or pulled by employees. This allows for a greater mass of paper to be moved at one time, and prevents a worker from overexerting themselves by trying to move too much product. If these carts have height-adjustable loading platforms, it makes them much safer to load and unload, as it reduces the amount of twisting and bending required by an employee. These awkward positions, especially when manipulating heavier materials, can lead to muscle strain and back pain.
By training employees in how to use the correct equipment, procedures and methods while doing their jobs, the amount of musculoskeletal injury and harm which results from chemical exposure can be dramatically reduced in the paper industry.