The majority of the time when an injured employee is sent for a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE), the provided job description is either two paragraphs long or is a multipage document generated by a state civil service commission. Often, neither of these descriptions provide any guidance on the actual postural and physical demands of the position. FCE teams are left to look for more information in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles or if they are lucky, they may get a job description request form returned that has been completed by the employee’s supervisor.
Unfortunately, the returned job description request forms can cause additional confusion about the demands. The individual completing the form may not have a solid understanding of the definition of certain postural tasks and how they are looked at by ergonomists, physical therapists, or physicians. A recent case in point was a job description that I reviewed that included only occasional sitting (marked as less than 33% of the work day) but included constant driving of delivery vehicles (67% to 100% of the work day). After a discussion with the employer, they had a better understanding of the disconnect in the job description that they had created.
In the case of barbers and hair stylists, we have seen forms that had been completed where walking was marked as seldom or occasional. Never marked as frequent or constant. On those forms, standing is normally denoted as a constant demand which is easy to understand. But, much of the day in a barbershop or hair salon is comprised of short walks of maybe 30 feet or less – walking to get supplies, walking a customer to the cash register, etc. But an even bigger part of the day is made up of even shorter walks in the 2 foot to 6 foot range. Barbers work their way around the chair from side to side as they cut hair and when they take that 6 foot walk from the back of the chair to the counter to grab scissors, change a guard on the clippers, or to grab the razor and hot shaving cream – if you are lucky enough to be in an old school barber shop. Those steps and those short walks add up over the course of a day, a week, a year, or many years. The evidence of these steps can be seen in the ring around the base of this barber chair.
When job description request forms need to be completed, there needs to be some basic education for the person assigned to complete the form in terms of definitions of postural and physical demands. In addition, there needs to be a review of the form and a dialogue between the evaluation team and the employer when these forms bring additional questions. Ideally, an ergonomics professional is available to evaluate and document the job demands to build a customized job description but this may not always be the case due to sensitivity of time constraints. However, we are available to help make this process as quick and painless as possible.
Podcast Review: Jocko Podcast Episode 267 – Are You Competing In The Right Things
This is the first of a series of reviews of podcasts that I think have application in the realm of occupational health and safety. I know that many who work in occupational health and safety are fans of podcasts – as am I – and these reviews will help identify podcast episodes that might not be on everybody’s radar.
Some background about the podcast:
I’ve tweeted and talked with people about the application of some of Jocko Willink’s podcasts in the realm of occupational health and safety in the past. Jocko’s podcast focuses on issues related to leadership and “extreme ownership” whether it is in the business world, the military, or life in general. As his podcasts are on the longer side, I tend to be a little choosier in which episodes that I listen to or more importantly when/where I listen to them. They can not be knocked out in a typical drive to or from work – they normally take a couple of drives or runs or walks. Even tougher is that his podcasts are one of the podcasts where I typically think – I wish I wasn’t driving so I could write this note down for myself.
Highlights And Applications to Occupational Health and Safety:
Shortly into the podcast, Jocko discusses one of the more important issues of “competing” – who are you competing with and why, illustrating it with a story about the tactical victory of beating his youngest daughter in Monopoly but losing the strategic victory because she no longer wants to play Monopoly with him. We have to be careful about the tactical and strategic victories in occupational health and safety. Sometimes those tactical wins can cause us to lose from a strategic standpoint.
“We’re competing all the time. But don’t waste your time competing in short term contests that don’t lead you towards your strategic goal.”
This concept is so important when it comes to the world of occupational health and safety. We need to make sure that we are going in the right direction – not just going for a specific number or metric but competing to actually change the culture towards a safer culture that takes responsibility for themselves and their peers through their actions.
One of the important topics that they talk about in regards to “competition” is being able to see from the other person’s viewpoint – whether it is a competitor, an employee, a family member, etc. This is so important with implementing safety programs. Dave Berke provides a unique example that can definitely apply as we try to implement new programs – he explains that when he was an adversary pilot at Top Gun, his job was to both see the world through the lens of Russian pilots and then teach the young Top Gun pilots how to go on the offensive maneuvers against him while he had to both fly defensively and also visualize the viewpoint of the student pilot – in other words, see both points of view. In occupational health and safety, we need to see not only our viewpoint, but the viewpoints of the employees, the management, and any other stakeholders to better understand how viewpoints may affect implementation.
Another important point that Jocko makes during the discussion is that of “connecting the dots” when someone may not know all of the details. People have a tendency to use their imagination to connect the dots in absence of solid information. As much as possible, we need to make the information of how or why we are implementing a plan available to curtail the rumors and guesses at the how/why. I know that when I go out to a site to measure for job descriptions that if it hasn’t been adequately explained, employees will have their own stories and reasons for why I am there. And almost always, those reasons are never close to the real reason.
There is a quick discussion on the importance of word choice and tone in how an employee reacts. We may say something to give that employee additional responsibility which is often a good thing and representative of our trust but if it isn’t conveyed adequately, that employee may feel that we have dumped something on them. Tim Page-Bottorff’s “Storytelling in Safety” podcast has a lot of great discussions that cover communication that we will visit in the future.
There is a reminder that culture changes take time but culture of an organization is really important. It affects how each member of an organization chooses to do things. (Quick operational definition of culture that was used – culture is a system of beliefs, values, and behavioral norms that operate in the background below the level of conscious awareness.)
Interestingly, the discussion of culture brought Jocko and Dave around to discussing safety (the application I had been thinking from the beginning of the podcast) – how culture affects cutting corners, PPE use, saying something or not say something when you see risky behavior. Also, how solid culture helps to have all employees take responsibility in what goes on – it doesn’t mitigate all risk, but gets us on the path to reducing those risks.
This episode is worth the time to listen to and get more information on identifying when, where, and how we should be competing. As noted above, there is a lot of crossover to the area of occupational health and safety – where the “competition” that we are involved in helps to aid in not only job performance but more importantly helping to make sure that employees go home safely at the end of their shift.
As I walked out of the foodstore after grabbing lunch, I was reminded of why it is so important to have solid job descriptions for heavy equipment operators. I watched the operator of this piece of equipment hop out to shovel snow into the scoop because the plows had piled the snow in a location that was inaccessible to the heavier equipment.
I can’t even count the times that I have listened to a heavy equipment operator say during an FCE that they don’t need to be there for physical testing because all they do is sit and operate a piece of equipment. Many times, this was a tricky situation because the employer did not have a job description that had more than a couple of bullet points, typically noting requirements to be certified to operate certain types of equipment. This can sometimes take the return to work decision from the physicians and rehab professionals and place it in the hands of the lawyers to argue over what tasks are actually performed by the employee.
The Dictionary of Occupational Titles entries don’t often offer much help for equipment operator positions as they include information about tasks the equipment might be used to complete but they don’t provide a clear picture of the entirety of the position. Over the years, I have been out in the field with equipment operators who operated all manner of heavy equipment and were also responsible for other tasks during the course of their shift. These tasks included manual digging with shovels (or even shoveling snow into the loader), carrying equipment, lifting and carrying debris to a loader bucket for removal, adding or removing different attachments to the heavy equipment and more.
In addition to the physical tasks, I have been in locations that have required heavy equipment operators to walk across wet and/or uneven terrain just to get to their equipment. As I write this post, people are still digging out from Winter Storm Orlena which dumped anywhere between 15 and 30 inches of snow across the northeast. Many equipment operators have had to walk across slippery parking lots, covered in ice and snow, to get to their assigned loaders. On large construction sites, while the site is still being graded and excavated in preparation for construction, operators often walk across muddy, uneven areas. This mud can cake up in the steps on the side of the equipment making that 20 inch first step into a 23 inch first step as well as making things a little more slippery for climbing on/off of equipment.
While I have been on job sites in which the heavy equipment operators are solely operators – typically on sites where multiple unions are working together – the majority of sites have had heavy equipment operators that fill multiple roles or maybe assigned tasks other than operating equipment.
Take a minute to check your job descriptions.
Do they include information on getting to and from equipment? (Where might they be walking?)
Do they include step up height for the different pieces of equipment that are operated?
Do they include the additional roles and responsibilities of the operator? Do they help with manual digging with a shovel? Do they have to pick up materials for loading that may not be able to be accessed by the equipment?
If you are wondering whether your job descriptions provide enough information about the essential minimum postural and physical demands as well as describe the essential tasks in a way that explains them to the treating physician or therapist, give us a call at 732-796-7370 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was the best of accommodations, it was the worst of accommodations….
All apologies to Charles Dickens for stealing his famous opening line but over a very short time period several years ago, we were sent two claimants who fell at the extremes of what can happen during workplace accommodations following a workplace injury.
In both cases, accurate job descriptions could have prevented these issues.
The first of the two cases was an employee at a county run mental health facility. Unfortunately, we evaluated this claimant after they were injured in the position that was used as an accommodation after their first workplace injury. The employee’s second injury was a reinjury of their right rotator cuff, which had been injured in the first injury. At the time of the employee’s first injury, she worked as a Certified Nurses Assistant. While transferring a patient, she suffered a tear of her right rotator cuff for which she underwent surgical repair of the rotator cuff. She attended physical therapy for approximately 3 months following surgery. At the conclusion of physical therapy, the claimant was accommodated through placement in a different position after the treating physician suggested that she was not able to safely return to her previous position as a CNA. An FCE to determine her physical abilities at the end of treatment was not performed. The employer chose to accommodate the employee by offering her a position within the housekeeping department of the facility, specifically in a position that was responsible for distribution of clean linens and collection of dirty and/or used linens.
Within 4 months of being switched to the housekeeping department, the employee was lifting a bag of dirty linens into a tall rolling cart when she tore injured her right rotator cuff for the second time. She underwent a second surgical repair and was sent for an FCE after completing physical therapy. She provided a consistent effort during the FCE and qualified at the light work level (20 pounds occasional, 10 pounds frequent, negligible constant). In both cases, the employer did not have customized job descriptions for either of these job titles.
The Dictionary of Occupational Titles places the CNA position and the linen staff for housekeeping in a hospital at the medium work level (50 pounds occasional, 25 pounds frequent, 10 pounds constant). While lacking a customized description that accurately and objectively defines the minimum essential physical demands, a cursory look at the DOT entries would indicate that this accommodation was a transfer to a position with a similar physical demand level as the position that the physician had recommended against. Having measured the physical demands for both positions at several facilities, while the overall tasks performed are different, the forces required to push, pull, and lift in performance of tasks is similar. Employees working in linen services in most hospital facilities face overstuffed bags of dirty linens that have to be lifted to shoulder height or above when placing in laundry carts as well as several other physically demanding tasks.
The second case started off slightly different. He had been sent for an FCE due to injuries sustained in a vehicle based accident at work. Based on the customized job description that was provided by the employer, his FCE results indicated that he did not meet the essential minimum physical and postural demands of his position. The employer identified a variety of tasks that could be performed by the employee in an accommodation based on his demonstrated physical abilities during the FCE. They asked us to perform an onsite visit to measure the physical demands and postures of the tasks that would be offered as an accommodation to the employee. As we were evaluating tasks, the supervisor showed us the equipment on which the employee had been injured. As we were looking at the equipment, I dug into my notebook where I had a copy of the provided job description.
The onsite equipment did not match the job description that we had been provided with for the test. The equipment used for the employee’s job title provided ground level access with handrails and required only an 8 inch step to climb onto the equipment. The job description had indicated a step height of 22 inches. We brought this to the attention of the supervisor who looked at the description that I had brought with me. He realized that they had been using a company wide description that did not accurately reflect the equipment at each of the sites. The description had been based on a location in another state.
We continued to evaluate the proposed accommodations but we also measured the demands for the position that the employee held at the time of injury. After collecting all of the data, a review of the employee’s FCE performance versus site specific equipment measurements indicated that the employee could return to his full duty position with no restrictions. Fully documented addendums were sent to the case manager and the treating physician. The treating physician returned the employee to full duty.
While the second case had a successful outcome for both the employer and employee, the case could have been resolved about 1 month earlier had the provided job description been accurate for the specific worksite. In the first case, a second injury with subsequent surgery may have been prevented if the accommodated position had been validated against the individual’s physical abilities. In both cases, accurate job descriptions could have prevented these issues.
A favorite BBQ place of mine, Mainely Meat on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, has a silhouette of a Sasquatch in the middle of its outside dining area. It’s a fun thing to put the kids next to for a picture. One day, last summer, I was seated behind the Sasquatch and noticed some writing on the back. It said “Please don’t lick me.” It was one of those things that I was not going to be able to let go of without finding out the story.
When I asked the waitress, she said that they felt that they had to place the instructions on Sasquatch after they brought out an order to a table, only to find somebody licking Sasquatch. She finished the story with “I never thought I’d have to tell people to not lick a big wooden silhouette of Sasquatch.”
At that point, I looked at a friend who was dining with us and we both laughed. He is a park ranger and we have both sat down numerous times to share stories of people doing silly things that should have never happened in the first place.
I was sharing this story recently when I was out in the field doing interviews of personnel to write a job description for a public works department. The two employees laughed, started to say that something like that would never happen, and then began to remember some things that they have seen and agreed with my comment that most rules are put in place because of somebody doing something that wasn’t the brightest idea.
At the most simple level, we all deal with this when buying electronics and footwear. Almost all shoes come with a silica gel pack to absorb moisture emblazoned with the instructions “Do Not Eat”. The gel packs are not poisonous but the beads don’t break down and can become a choking hazard – this happens more frequently than one would expect.
Often, TV commercials have disclaimers to remind viewers that a car or motorcycle was driven at high performance levels on closed tracks and that you shouldn’t try it at home or if you aren’t a professional stunt driver.
Recently, popular culture has had several products that have been involved in dangerous fads, such as eating Tide pods. It doesn’t take much to know that consuming a Tide pod is a bad idea but some people still tried it anyway. With the recent pandemic, this has extended to drinking bleach or consuming other chemicals in hopes of preventing an infection.
There is a great Twitter feed, @safetyphoto that reinforces the concept that sometimes we need to remind people not to do something – even though we think that nobody would try doing it. If you’ve had the thought that nobody would be dumb enough to try a certain action, you probably need a sign because it isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when. In the field, I have had people explain to me how they perform certain tasks and then they stop to think for a minute about the process they shared. That pause is typically followed with “You don’t work for OSHA, do you?”
Feel free to share your stories of “things you thought people wouldn’t do” in the comments.
When using an alcohol based hand rub, you need to make sure that your hands are dry and all of the alcohol has evaporated off before touching anything. The MCAA put out the reminder that hand sanitizers with alcohol are flammable due to an incident where an employee used hand sanitizer per guidelines to sanitize his hands. However, the alcohol had not evaporated off of his hands when he touched a metal surface. The remaining alcohol in the hand sanitizer on his hands was ignited by static electricity. The employee was able to get to a sink and extinguish the flames however he suffered first and second degree burns on his hands.
When using hand sanitizer please be aware of any risks of flames or sparks and make sure that you allow your hands to fully dry before touching anything that can generate a spark or a static discharge.
When I initially posted about “virtual school” ergonomics in March, it was with the intent that those tips would be a temporary fix. Ordering office equipment and supplies from places like Amazon isn’t any quicker than it was back in March at the early stages of sheltering in place, but for many states it looks like many of us will be working from home for a while longer.
I’ve been seeing posts and hearing that the kitchen chair or bench at the table isn’t really working out any more and that aches and pains are starting to become a little more chronic. This is not a surprise as these chairs aren’t made for sitting in all day long. The good news is this is a problem that can be corrected. Where and how you sit is an important part of reducing aches and pains.
The before and after photo below shows a couple of quick changes with setting up a temporary home workstation.
While this photo illustrates using an iPad and keyboard, the process is the same when using a laptop. On the left, the chair is set too low and the feet are not adequately supported. With some adjustments, the feet are supported and the chair is at a better height for using the keyboard without stressing the wrists, elbows, or shoulders. With the display slightly higher, there is less flexion of the neck and the back posture is improved. With a regular kitchen chair, it would be much more difficult to improve sitting posture for using a keyboard without adjusting the desk height.
A good chair for performing desk work should:
Allow you to maintain a good neutral posture with the ears over the shoulders and the shoulders over the hips.
Allow you to adjust the height to get you to an appropriate height for using the keyboard and mouse.
Provide adjustable back rest support to allow the back rest to be upright or slightly reclined.
Provide adjustable support for your lumbar spine.
Have a seat pan that supports the upper legs and provides a 2 to 4 finger gap between the front edge of the seat pan and your knees. This helps to make sure that the seat isn’t too short and not supporting your thighs as well as not being too long and reducing blood flow at the knees.
Have your knees slightly lower than your hips.
Provide adjustable arm rests that can raise to a level that support your arms when typing at the computer.
Has a weight capacity that will accommodate anybody that will be using it. The hydraulic cylinder that allows the chair to raise and lower has a weight capacity (typically between 250-275 pounds) but stronger cylinders are available based on user weight.
The Kroy Mesh Task Chair from Staples is a solid, basic ergonomic chair with a reasonable price for home usage. It has adjustable arms, lumbar support, and the main hydraulic cylinder can accommodate users up to 275 pounds. (Note: I have no affiliation with Staples and do not earn anything from any purchases via the link.)
The image below demonstrates optimal angles for sitting and standing when using the computer. As mentioned above, when sitting, the ears should be over the shoulders and shoulders over the hips. The keyboard should be at a height that allows your elbow to be flexed between 90 and 120 degrees (whether sitting or standing).
What about my feet touching the floor?
You shouldn’t let your feet dangle in the air. If your feet don’t touch the floor once you have adjusted your chair for your workspace (correct height for using the computer keyboard and mouse and performing other tasks on your work surface), you need to use a footrest to support your feet. A box or a stack of books work as a good temporary foot rest. Ideally, an adjustable height foot rest, such as the Eureka Ergonomic Tilt Adjustable Footrest, works best as it is easier to adjust to the appropriate height for a range of users. (Again, I do not receive any compensation for these linked items.)
What if I have to use my kitchen chair?
While not ideal, using your kitchen chair is not the end of the world. If you can add a thin seatpad to cushion the seat and a lumbar pad or lumbar pillow to support your back, you can make your kitchen chair comfortable for longer stretches. Make sure that you have a box or footrest to support your feet.
What else should I know about being more comfortable in my chair at home?
Get out of your chair at least once an hour to move around and stretch. If you didn’t spend the bulk of your work day sitting in your normal work environment, you won’t be used to sitting all day at home. Walk around the room a little bit. Do some easy backward bends and bend forward towards your toes. Remember when you are stretching, you should feel slight discomfort but not pain.
A few additional resources
“Virtual School” Ergonomics – This blog post discusses best improvised setups for using tablets and laptop computers, raising the laptop to a better display height, and adjusting the chair and footrest. It also covers improving ergonomics if you have to use a couch as a workstation.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve realized that my son’s newest hobby is teaching him many advanced safety lessons that will carry over well when gets older. Much of it is safety training that should be taught to adults on worksites.
My 11 year old son recently acquired a Traxxas Slash RC car through a lot of saving and a lot of chores. While learning how to cut the grass and the associated safety issues with lawn mowers is a post for a different day, this whole process has been a learning experience for him.
One of the chores was cutting the grass, which helped to teach him about lawn mower safety and the use of some basic PPE – eye protection and ear protection. Most modern lawn mowers include their own version of a simple “lock out tag out” in that an additional handle needs to be held in the closed position to operate and if it is let go, the mower shuts down. This is a good start to understanding that certain tools should only be energized when being operated in a safe manner.
When he received his Slash, he learned several new safety concepts. The first has to do with batteries and charging. His slightly older cousin, who is also involved in RC cars, had warned him that you need to be careful with Lithium Ion RC car batteries. With a little bit of extra research, my son has learned that you need to physically inspect the battery pack on a regular basis to make sure that there is no physical damage to the battery. Each time he either plugs in the battery or unplugs the battery, he checks the battery to make sure that there are no bulges in the battery or damage to the battery that causes the casing to open. He has also learned that care needs to be taken in charging batteries through using appropriate battery chargers and using a fire resistant battery charging case to reduce the risk of damage in the event of problems. Everything in the list below while directed towards the use of an RC car can be applied to most tools used in the workplace:
Never leave batteries to charge unattended.
Remove the batteries from the model while charging.
Allow the battery packs to cool off between runs (before charging).
Always unplug the battery from the electronic speed control when the model is not in use and when it is being stored or transported.
Do not use battery packs that have been damaged in any way.
Do not use battery packs that have damaged wiring, exposed wiring, or a damaged connector
The second concept is an extension of the “lock out tag out” concept that I mentioned earlier is getting reinforced for him with his RC car. RC cars are paired to their controllers which allows multiple cars to be operated by multiple users in the same area. As a result, he has learned that when he is turning on his car, the controller gets turned on before the speed controller on the car is powered on. This prevents the car from running out of control when it is turned on. While this is not “lock out tag out” in the traditional sense, it has taught him to always think about procedures when turning things on and off as well as making sure that motors and controls are de-energized before working on them.
The third concept that he has learned from using his RC car involves situational awareness. At the most basic level, he has learned to know the limits of the radio control of his car both from radio distance and visual limitations so that he does not operate the car unsafely in a way that can hurt other people or damage other property or his car. More importantly, he has learned to be aware of any potential issues in the area in which he is operating his car – he has developed a solid idea of whether he has enough room to operate the car or if there are objects in the area that represent a danger to himself, others, or his car.
I’m glad that he is learning these in a way that he is able to understand how basic safety rules work and is able to understand the next phases of those rules. This learning process has been helpful because it is not just me as a parent putting a rule in place. He sees the rules in the manual for his car and has begun to understand how they keep him safe, keep others around him safe, and protect his investment in his car. The fact that he is learning them while having fun makes me hopeful that they will continually be reinforced for him – I know that I have seen him explain these concepts to friends when they use his car.
If your kids are like mine, they do their homework sitting on the couch, the bedroom floor, or maybe at the kitchen table – once in a blue moon. If they sit at a desk in their room, it typically isn’t for a long time. That’s a good thing because most of these setups aren’t great ergonomically for long periods of doing work.
It is a completely different ball game now that the schools are switching over to virtual classrooms due to the coronavirus. Students will be going online for extended periods of time to use Google classroom and other web portals to do assignments, watch instructional videos and virtual lectures/tours assigned by their teachers, etc. This is a different situation than getting comfy and consuming streamed media for entertainment or doing a short bout of a homework.
There are several things that we can do to make sure that we improve their learning environment from an ergonomics standpoint so that we aren’t adding physical stress (musculoskeletal) to the emotional stress of this situation. These fixes may not be ergonomically perfect, but we need to work with what we have available to us.
Don’t have a laptop stand? Find some books to stack underneath your ipad or laptop to get it to a better height.
(There are a couple of changes between photos. In the after photo (right), the chair seat has been elevated and the feet are supported on a shoebox. The ipad is lifted on books to help improve the viewing angle. Note that the neck, shoulders, and arms are more relaxed in the improved posture.)
In the after photo (above right), the laptop has been elevated on a stand to improve the vision angle. A wireless keyboard and mouse with the laptop stand for inputting information.
Use a USB or wireless keyboard and mouse.
Don’t use the keyboard height adjusters – you want the keyboard to be somewhat flat to maintain a neutral posture at the wrist.
Keep the mouse close to the keyboard. Don’t put it in a place that you need to reach away from your body for it.
Learn the keyboard shortcuts for your apps – this reduces the physical demand on your wrist and fingers when using the mouse.
If they have an adjustable chair, set it to the right height for the surface that the keyboard is sitting on.
If their feet don’t touch the ground, find a box or some books that they can use as a foot rest.
If their back isn’t touching the back rest of the chair, use a pillow to help provide some support.
Use a timer to remind your kids to look away from the screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Have them refocus on something on the other side of the room to give their eyes a break.
At least once an hour, have them get up and move around.
Encourage them to drink water while they are doing their work to stay hydrated.
If your child has to use the couch, there are some small things that can be done to improve their posture. Have them sit with their feet on the floor and a pillow behind their back for improved support (below right) instead of sitting with crossed legs. Also, move the table close so they don’t have to reach (it could be a little closer in these photos.)
If you have any questions about how to set up your student’s “virtual classroom”, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com, tweet me @njergonomics, or give us a call at (732) 796-7370.
It’s not about being messy or being neat – although one of these looks a lot better when the customers walk up.
It’s about putting items at optimal heights for when a customer or an employee has to lift the items. Notice that the firewood on the right is stacked on not one but two pallets. This helps bring the bags of firewood to a more optimal initial lift position than trying to pick the firewood up off of the ground.
The power zone for lifting starts at just above knee height, which is about where the handle is located on the lowermost bundles of firewood in the image on the right. Without those two pallets as a base, the firewood would be picked up from a less than optimal height (although, with some bending at the knees we can make it a much better and safer lift).
The firewood in the image to the left has two problems. The first is that the lower levels of firewood are stored on the ground in bags that tend to spread in a horizontal fashion, reducing the overall height of the bag. The second is that these bags don’t have regular handles on the top which can mean that the handle is actually on the level of the ground. The use of a spare pallet or two and some reorganizing of the bags so that they stand with the handle portion of the bag in a vertical orientation could make this “retail display” a little easier on the backs of the employees and the customers.