In theory and practice, ergonomics is a valuable business tool. Good ergonomics reduces injury risk, improves work performance and efficiently builds a better end product.
Our monthly feature, Workplace Ergonomics Case Studies, moves away from abstract theory and dives into the real world practice of ergonomics. It’s about real people doing real work in ergonomics, with tangible takeaways and principles you can apply in your workplace right now.
This installment of Workplace Ergonomics Case Studies is submitted by Ergonomics Plus injury prevention specialist Tara Chase.
Tara Chase, MS, ATC, SCAT, LMT, CEAS
Tara Chase is a 1998 graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a specialization in Athletic Training. She earned a Masters of Science Degree in Kinesiology with dual concentrations in Athletic Administration and Coaching at James Madison University in 2001. Tara is First Aid, CPR, and AED certified. She has an extensive background in injury prevention, evaluation, management, and rehabilitation. Prior to joining Ergonomics Plus as an Injury Prevention Specialist, Tara has had widespread experiences as a Certified Athletic Trainer, Licensed Massage Therapist, and adjunct Professor having worked in the collegiate, high school, and clinical settings. She is a member of NATA, SCATA, AMTA, and NCMTB.
Associates pull the units onto their workstation and remove covers and any barriers. Next, they check diagram for customer specifications and determine wire routing. Associates then place pre-printed labels on the terminal blocks, wire the units, heat Thermo shrink, replace barriers and covers, and conclude with removing the unit from their workstation.
Ergonomic Risk Factors
Repetitive and Sustained Awkward Postures: During these job processes, associates are placed in awkward/sustained postures such as bending over, stooping, high reach on toes, back flexion greater than 30 or 45 degrees and or neck flexion greater than 45 degrees.
The risk of MSD is increased when joints are worked outside of this mid-range repetitively or for sustained periods of time without adequate recovery time.
Ergonomic Controls Implemented
A Pneumatic lift assist was installed and a 2-step steel stool replaced the round single step stool. These two engineering controls allow associates to work safely in a neutral body alignment.
Cost of Ergonomic Improvement
- $6000 – Lift assist + in-house labor for modifications
- $100 – steel stool + in-house labor for modifications
Effectiveness of Ergonomic Improvement
- Better ergonomics: Joints of the body are most efficient when they operate closest to the mid-range motion of the joint and reduce the risk of discomfort and fatigue that can offer lead to MSDs.
- Better safety practices: According to National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), an average worker’s compensation claim is $41,393 for a fall/slip and all claims average of $36,551 by body part that can be caused by awkward postures.
- Better productivity: More efficient process leads to increased productivity.
Ergonomic Principles and Takeaways
- Reduce awkward postures: Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons around the effected joint.
- Engineering Controls: Eliminate or reduce awkward postures with ergonomic modifications that seek to maintain joint range of motion to accomplish work tasks within the mid-range of motion positions for vulnerable joints. Proper ergonomic tools should be utilized that allow workers to maintain optimal joint positions.
- Work Practice Controls: Work procedures that consider and reduce awkward postures should be implemented. In addition, workers should be trained on proper work technique and encouraged to accept their responsibility to use their body properly and to avoid awkward postures whenever possible.
For more on ergonomics fundamentals, read:
- How to Recognize Ergonomic Risk Factors
- 8 Fundamental Ergonomic Fundamentals for Better Work Performance
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