Efficiency and effectiveness are top priorities in all data centers. Attention is given to performance and IT equipment, including servers, storage, backups, recovery, power, and cooling. The most critical pieces which create a successful data center also create a more dangerous work environment. Maintaining a safe data center operation for all personnel is commonly under prioritized (or overlooked). Work-related injuries can be very costly, so it is vital to spend adequate time, money and planning to ensure a comfortable and safe work environment.
The Risks of Heavy Lifting in the Data Center
A common task for data center workers is moving and lifting servers, networking equipment and power supplies as they reorganize, expand or migrate to a new location. These tasks are unsafe and sometimes cause injury and data damage when performed without the proper tools. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study on Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work 2009 reported: – Sprain, strain, and tear injuries accounted for 40% of total injury and illness cases requiring days away from work in all ownerships; 37% were back-related – 42% of sprains, strains, and tears were the result of overexertion – Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), often referred to as ergonomic injuries, accounted for 28% of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work in 2009; 60% were of the back and required a median of 7 days to recuperate
The OSHA Technical Manual on Back Disorders and Injuries reports that Back disorders: – One of the leading causes of disability for people in their working years – Afflict over 600,000 employees each year – Cost of about $50 billion annually – Up to one-third of compensation are back injuries that could have been prevented through better job design
Techniques to Help Prevent Lifting-Related Injuries in the Data Center
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is an agency dedicated to help employers and employees reduce workplace injuries, and has developed a number of resources, guidelines and regulations for lifting in the workplace. Data center training and job performance should be in compliance with OSHA regulations. OSHA has looked at both major categories of methods for preventing lifting injuries: administrative controls and engineering controls. Administrative controls include carefully selecting and/or training workers so they can safely perform lifting tasks. Engineering controls attempt to redesign a job so lifting becomes less hazardous. Primary among these are installation of mechanical aids such as server lifter, conveyors, and/or automated materials handling data center equipment, and also include adjustment of the physical environment (height of shelves, reduction in size or weight). Since most racks and equipment sizes are standardized, the optimal solution is a pneumatic lift machine such as a ServerLIFT.