Are Data Center Workers Human Server Lifting Fork Lifts?

Over one third of all injuries in the data center are from manual server lifting and handling.  Musculoskeletal disorders are the primary affliction, accounting for 60% of those work-related issues.

Server Lifting Can Be As Much Work As Lifting A Harley Davidson Fat Boy

Some Servers Weigh As Much As A Harley Davidson Fat Boy

It’s important that Data Center Managers impose safe limits for employees that are carrying out manual handling tasks. OSHA suggests 50 pounds as a maximum weight limit.  Knowing what factors affect your employees’ ability to perform the task and awareness of manual handling weight limits will enable you to implement safe processes.  If the loads are relatively light then good handling techniques may be all that is required to keep your people safe.

When it comes to lifting heavier loads it may be intuitive to simply bring in more people to help lift.  The difficulty coordinating combined with the challenge of several people trying to grip a server while stepping on each other’s toes in a tight data center aisle makes it a very bad idea.

The amount of weight your people are able to lift and transport manually depends on four factors:

Server Lifting manually is no different than lifting heavy machinery tires

Server Lifting Manually Is No Different Than Lifting Heavy Machinery Tires.

The Task Itself
If it’s carried out for too long or too frequently it may cause unnecessary strain on the person’s body, regardless of whether it hits the 50 pound mark or not.
The Employee
Everyone’s capabilities are different.  Various factors contribute to this – the person’s age, health and physical size.
The Server
If it is large and bulky, they may find themselves struggling to get a solid grip. This could lead to the load slipping out of their hands.
The Environment
Data center aisles can be very tight.  Manual server lifting is simply too risky to carry out if there isn’t enough space.

At some point logic must prevail and a prudent manager must consider the frequency of lifts and average weight of servers being installed.  The question that has to be asked is, “Should I be using my technicians as human forklifts or is it time to begin using a data center lift tool?”

Here are a few common items and weights that will give you perspective about the lifting tasks that you may be expecting of your people.

Compare what you see here to the weight specifications of your servers:

Server lifting done by hand is equivalent to lifting a 400 pound piano.

Server Lifting Done By Hand Is Equivalent To Lifting A 400 Pound Piano.

A refrigerator weighs approximately 200 pounds. (91 kg)

Seven cases of beer (24 pack) weigh about 250 pounds. (23 kg)

An upright piano weighs between 300 and 400 pounds.  (136 to 181 kg)

A mining truck tire is almost 500 pounds.  (227 kg)

A Harley Davidson Fat Boy weights over 600 pounds.  (272 kg)

These kinds of weights are not meant for manual lifting.

 

Moving Fully Populated Cabinets

Server Lifting BrickData centers are in a constant state of flux. The demand for faster equipment, greater data storage and changes in corporate strategies all drive the need for equipment moves in the DC. Some of the reorganization would be well served with the ability to transport the entire loaded cabinet.

What? Transport The Entire Loaded Cabinet? Blasphemy!

Can you believe some self-proclaimed data center gurus still to trumpet the perils of moving an entire cabinet? “The equipment is too valuable to risk it!” they say. “The hardware may suffer damage! Keep doing it the way it’s been done for generations – pull out each device, move it, store it and then transport the empty cabinet. Position the cabinet then painstakingly reassemble the pieces. That’s the way we’ve always done it!” say the high priests.

Are you kidding me? That’s like moving a house one brick at a time! If you’re reading this you know how much work is involved in moving even a couple cabinets that way. Those gurus are often the same people that work for organizations that make their money by moving your equipment around.

Hmmm! Could it be they haven’t heard about the RackLift RL5000E Cabinet Lifter? Could it be they know about it but don’t own one yet? Maybe they make more money by moving one brick at a time. If they had a RackLift they’d get the job done faster, better and cheaper.

Best Practices for Data Center Safety

Caveman In Data CenterOften the biggest focus of Data Center Managers is uptime and efficiency. The spotlight is centered squarely on IT equipment and software with attention going to servers, backup units, storage devices, recovery systems, power distribution, and cooling systems. With so much attention placed on the operation of the apparatus, the important aspects of data center safety often takes a back seat.

The people that keep it all running are the most valuable asset to any data center. Yet all-too-often, they are not provided the right equipment to properly and safely handle the devices for which they are responsible to maintain. In many cases they are actually expected to apply brute force to manually lift and install devices in a rack. Recently those devices have grown in both size and weight, exponentially increasing risk of injury in the DC work environment.

It’s not a surprise that work related injuries are very costly. It seems however, that data center safety is not given priority until someone is injured when dropping a heavy server during a manual install attempt. Unfortunately, we are a reactive society – we buy an alarm after a burglary ignoring potential problems until they become real.

Time-OFF Recovery For Injury Is SEVEN DAYS on Average

Here are the stats:*

  • 40% of all injuries requiring time away from work are from sprains, strains and tears
  • 37% were back-related
  • 42% of injuries were the due to overexertion
  • 28% were musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), also known as ergonomic injuries
  • 60% were of the back
  • 7 days is the average time off work to recuperate

*U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistic

What will the impact be when one of your key people is away from work for a week, then on “light duty” for another month as they recuperate? This happens to over 600,000 people annually. About one third of them are from back injuries that could have been prevented by changing processes or using proper equipment on the job.

Why Wait Until It Happens To You?

Data center safety is a serious matter that requires an implementation plan and funding to see it through. OSHA recommends that workers should not lift greater than 50 pounds. With many data center devices weighing 150 pounds or more a Data Center Manager can justifiably procure a data center lifter to provide a safe and easy way to lift them.

Ok, I can hear it already –

“If we get three people to lift a 150 pound server, we can keep on doing it manually. Right?”

Don’t you think it’s time you came out of the Stone Age and got yourself a RackLift?

A Warehouse Lift Is Not A Data Center Lift

Genie Lift No, RackLift Yes

When you’re evaluating a serverlifter for your data center there are two aspects to consider – one is about suitability for use in data centers and the other relates to code or policy violations. Sure, you can buy a general purpose warehouse lift very cheaply and in doing so you’ll be trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Here’s Why:

Most are poorly designed, not robust and hard to maneuverable in tight aisles. They lack adequate safety features that prevent them from toppling over or dropping your equipment. None of them have a means of extending the load into the rack. It’s like using a screwdriver to chisel wood; looks similar, lower price, easy to get purchase approval – but the result is an epic fail.

The other concern is for lift systems that use hydraulic fluid or oil in the mechanisms. Sooner or later they leak. Not a question of “if” but “when”. A couple drops on the floor are worse than invisible banana peels. Someone is sure to slip and fall. Unlike cartoons – not funny. Oil driven systems are probably a violation of your data center policies which are in place for a good reason – to protect people and equipment.

If you truly have a tight budget you might consider buying a demonstrator model or a rental unit to save money. For gosh sakes, whatever you do, get a proper data center lift tool to protect your people and equipment. Nuff said.