Ergonomics: Stocking Shelves and Moving Products

Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders: Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores


Ergonomic principles apply to employees who perform stocking tasks at grocery stores.

• Keep cart wheels well maintained. Wheels that are in poor repair can be difficult to push. Racks or carts with bad wheels should be removed from service until they can be repaired.


• Arrange shelves so that heavy items and fastmoving items are stored within easy reach. This reduces the stress on the body caused by bending or reaching overhead.

• Use the correct safety cutter for the job. Be sure to supply a left-handed cutter if the employee is left-handed.

• Keep safety cutters sharp. Using dull tools requires more force. Replace cutter blades often.

• Report improperly stacked pallets to the supplier to reduce future problems.

• Ensure that the floor areas are level and free of debris and spills. Report any floor problems that need repair immediately.

• Use boxes or totes with hand holds, where suitable.

• Work with suppliers to get lower weight boxes to reduce the weight manually lifted. Industry groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers of America and Food Marketing Institute encourage all companies to use containers and packages that weigh 40 pounds or less. (14)

• Use carts with larger wheels so they are easier to push. Use carts with raised bottom shelves so the employee can maintain more neutral body position when lifting or placing cases.

• Ensure that there is adequate room around carts and pallets for lifting tasks. Workers should be able to walk around the pallet or cart, rather than reaching or bending.

• Avoid congestion in grocery store aisles so employees have adequate room to sort cases, open cases, mark merchandise, and stock shelves.

• Equip stockrooms and central processing areas with roller bed conveyors and turntables to reduce lifting and carrying. Maintain turntables so they move easily and with little force required by the worker. Maintain rollers to reduce the pushing and pulling forces needed to handle cases.

• If a turntable is not used, place a flat piece of stainless steel over the end section of the roller bed preferably with a non-stick coating to allow cases to be turned easily. The metal surface should allow the cases to be pushed onto the roller bed easily.

• Use a powered hand jack or scissors-lift to raise the pallet to waist height. This prevents picking up cases with a bent back.

hand cart

• Work with suppliers to obtain freight with pallet load heights that are within the reach of workers.


(14) Grocery Manufacturers of America, Food Marketing Institute, Food Distributors International. Supply Chain Packaging - Voluntary Shipping Container Guidelines for the U.S. Grocery Industry. 1999.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Updated on: 09/07/12
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