Cutting-edge work bench systems for inclusion and efficiency

Work benches for users with disabilities

Highly qualified, motivated and nevertheless unemployed. This is often the reality for people with disabilities. But a disability doesn’t automatically mean restricted working capacity – rather conventional work benches often present an obstacle that needs to be overcome if we are to achieve inclusion. State-of-the-art and flexible systems can help create a disabled-friendly working environment and provide employees with the exact support they need, thus counteracting any motor deficits and restricted movement. 

A disability makes getting into the job market much more difficult. Neither the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities nor governmental aims of inclusion have had a great impact as of yet. According to the German Federal Employment Agency, despite a gradual downward trend since 2007, approximately 12 percent of people with severe disabilities are currently unemployed – around double the rate for those without disabilities. The main reason is that many companies are fearful of incurring high additional costs if they hire disabled candidates. “Such fears are unfounded, however. In most cases, work benches can be adapted for disabled employees with minimum outlay,” says Marius Geibel, an expert in work bench systems and a Product Manager at item. Furthermore, in light of the shortage of skilled workers sweeping across Germany, investing in disabled-friendly work benches is also an investment in the future. After all, a disability doesn’t necessarily mean a lower skill level or reduced output. 

Choosing a fine over disabled candidates

In Germany, companies with more than 20 employees normally have to hire people with a severe disability. Failure to comply results in a “compensatory levy” for each unoccupied mandatory workplace. Many businesses would rather accept the levy than invest in new employees. But hiring disabled candidates creates undeniable benefits for employers. It can help win public tenders, for example. It is therefore not just a question of social responsibility – there are specific economic factors to be considered, too. There are also financial incentives that companies can claim when setting up disabled-friendly working environments. 

Breaking down barriers with innovative systems

Ensuring disabled people can fully participate in working life creates a need for work benches suited to specific requirements. The term “accessibility” plays an important role in this respect. Work benches are accessible for disabled staff when structures, means of transport, work equipment, data processing systems, acoustic, visual and tactile sources of information and means of communication can be accessed and used without any major difficulties and without help from others. State-of-the-art and modular work bench systems can help achieve this and, unlike conventional work benches, create an ergonomic and accessible working environment. 

Tailoring the workspace to different needs

To establish a disabled-friendly workspace, it is important to ascertain employees’ precise requirements, as each impairment gives rise to specific needs. Businesses can create customised solutions using a wide range of suitable products in the item portfolio. Wheelchair users and people with difficulties sitting or walking are often unable to reach very far. In most cases, they cannot bend down or reach for objects that are further than arm’s length away. “That is why all required work equipment, such as tools and components, needs to be placed in the immediate handling area,” recommends Geibel. Multiaxial pivot arms, for example, ensure material supply and picking can be customised to the individual. Needs-based, mobile parts supply using height-adjustable parts containers that are positioned in easy reach of staff also makes it easier for workers with disabilities to lay their hands on the tools and materials they need. To extend the radius of the worker’s reach, it should also be possible to get a wheelchair right underneath the work bench. “Conventional work benches don’t allow that. The solution, however, is simple. C-shaped benches ensure that equipment offers maximum legroom,” explains Geibel. To minimise physical strain, work benches need to be ergonomically height-adjustable and thus allow workers to easily adopt the perfect sitting or standing position. To avoid poor posture, chairs and footrests also need to be customised to the employee and the task at hand. If employees have problems with moving, they need anti-slip surfaces to ensure workpieces stay in place. Workers with visual impairments, on the other hand, require surfaces that differ as much as possible from each other – something otherwise best avoided. In addition, visually impaired employees need significantly stronger lighting than their co-workers.

Quote: “Disabled-friendly work benches need to satisfy two requirements. On the one hand, they need to be economically viable. On the other, they have to provide disabled employees with the best possible support. This is what inclusion is all about and will also boost profits.” (Marius Geibel, expert for work bench systems and Product Manager at item)

Length: 5,580 characters including spaces

Date: 15 January 2018


item_FA Behindertengerechte Arbeitsplätze Image 1 © item

item_FA Behindertengerechte Arbeitsplätze Image 2 © item

item_FA Behindertengerechte Arbeitsplätze Image 3 © item

Picture captions: Image 1: Wheelchair users require equipment that offers maximum legroom.

Image 2: To establish a disabled-friendly workspace, it is important to know employees’ precise requirements. Businesses can find a wide range of suitable products in the item portfolio for creating customised solutions.

Image 3: Wheelchair users and people with difficulties sitting or walking are often unable to reach very far. That is why all work equipment required, such as tools and components, needs to be placed in the immediate handling area. Pivot arms, for example, ensure material supply and picking arrangements can be customised.

About item

item Industrietechnik GmbH is a global market leader in building kit systems for industrial applications and employs around 500 members of staff. It has been designing and marketing construction solutions for machinery, fixtures and plants since 1976. The product portfolio comprises more than 3,500 high-quality components designed for use in machine bases, work benches, automation solutions and lean production applications. Thanks to the inclusion of transport solutions and dynamic elements, the company’s products can cover virtually all working processes, from manual production to automated manufacturing. The highly skilled employees work day-in, day-out to develop innovative solutions for state-of-the-art mechanical engineering and also offer exceptional consulting services. item is headquartered in Solingen, Germany. Eleven branches and support centres ensure the company is always close to customers in Germany. The group has wholly owned subsidiaries in the USA, China, Mexico, Italy, Poland and Switzerland.

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