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Case Studies

Our innovative, ergonomic solutions are what allow us to provide customized and effective solutions for a variety of ergonomic concerns. Below is a summary of various cases we have encountered and delivered effective solutions for.


Industrial – Heavy Equipment

Industrial – Heavy Equipment

Problem

Equipment operators were reporting low back concerns related to the operation of 776D tractor-trailer units on a prairie mine site in Alberta. The equipment had been brought in six months prior to the assessment request and operators were concerned that the tractor-trailer units were exposing to high levels of vibration over the 12-hour shift.

Approach

The assessment was divided into two components subjective and objective measurements. The assessment involved the equipment vendor, which required prior approval of the assessment strategy including review of the questionnaire.

Subjective measurements included the administration of a health and perception survey (Nordic Survey) to all operators. A return rate of sixty percent was received. Additionally, interviews were conducted with front-line operators, maintenance and supervision to further explore the concern.

Objective measurements included physical vibration testing of the equipment against ISO standards and observation of the key tasks that comprised the tasks.

Findings

Vibration levels measured were consistent with other studies of off-road vehicles used in similar situations. The analysis indicated that over a 12-hour shift individuals exceeded the lower boundary of the Health Guidance Caution Zone, but none of the tractor-trailer units exceeded the upper boundary. If it exceeded the upper boundary there would have definitely been a health risk associated with operation of the tractor-trailer unit.

Outcomes

It was determined with the key stakeholders that the primary factors that were affecting overall exposure included: low tire pressures, road conditions and maintenance of the equipment. Regularly monitoring of road conditions, operating speeds and tire pressures had a significant impact on overall vibration levels. Additional, recommendations implemented: proper seat adjustment and regular postural change throughout the shift.

Tool Development

Tool Development

Problem:

A drilling company developed two lifting aids to help move heavy rigging components from mobile equipment to the main rigging site. Parts were over 100 lbs. and were awkward to handle. The goal was to develop a tool that would allow two-people to safely move the load to be used on a regular basis. The organization developed a prototype and requested to examine its feasibility of use and user acceptance.

Approach:

The assessment included both subjective and objective measurements. Subjective measurements included conducting a ride-along with the engineer and a number of operators to determine where the lifting aid would be stored and utilized on a regular basis. To augment employee reports, a series of physical measurements were taken and then compared to a biomechanical modelling package, which allowed for a greater understanding of the potential impact on the back and arms when the tool is put into use.

Findings:

It was evident from the evaluation that the proposed lifting aids and associated work practices could minimize manual handling demands of the rigging components. The design of the tools allowed for two individuals to share the weight of the load, significantly reducing the risk as compared to handling the load individually. Recommendations that were provided to engineering prior to full implementation included:

  • Increasing the overall length of the lifting aid so operators could better position the body when lifting,
  • Modifying the handle to improve access and reduce stress on the wrist and shoulders,
  • Application of an anti-slip treatment to reducing the potential risk that the hand may slip when handling the lifting aid,
  • Re-design of the hook so that it would aid placing the component on the aid more effectively,
  • Work practices – such as use of blocks so rigging components were not placed directly on the ground making it difficult to handle the component, and
  • Placement of the aid on the truck to encourage easy and quick access.
Outcomes:

The lifting aids have been re-designed to accommodate the design suggestions. The lifting aids are currently being field tested.

Hand-Arm Vibration Concerns

Hand-Arm Vibration Concerns

Problem:

The organization requested a full ergonomic assessment associated with fabrication of PVC pipe. Primary concerns were related to daily use of powered hand tools. Previously, two incidents had been reported and deemed work-related by the insurance provider. The organization wanted to identify the root causes in order to develop an effective mitigation plan.

Approach:

The assessment was comprised of review of incident data, production data and on-site task analysis in order to capture the nature of the work tasks and exposures to MSI risk factors. Along with observation, a series of measurements were completed including: hand forces, tool weights, hand-arm vibration levels and documentation of postures in which operation of tools occurred. Hand arm vibration levels were compared to ACGIH (2006), ISO 5329-1:2001, ANSI S2.70-2006 and European Directive 2002/44/EC.

Findings:

Four tools were identified as posing a risk for vibration white finger symptoms, which included: Die Grinder, Jigsaw, Cable Router (690LR) and the Sawzall. Recommendations were to examine removing the Milwaukee Sawzall from the tool crib for thicker walled PVC, replacing it with an alternative tool with less vibration. Additional recommendations included: work scheduling, regular tool maintenance, education on effective tool-use, PPE and medical monitoring.

Outcomes:

The organization has removed the Milwaukee Sawzall from its operation. It has introduced an alternative tool that has significantly reduced worker exposure to vibration. Supervisors have been provided with a guide to help map multiple tool exposure to ensure workers are not exceeding daily recommended exposure limits. Providing this guide allowed supervisors to use the guide quicker without being overwhelmed with technical jargon. Regular monitoring of tool use and condition is now considered a part of their job hazard assessment prior to commencing work. Tools are inspected and removed from operation if they appear worn or if components are not functioning. One tool that was presumed to have a very high vibration level was shown to be well below acceptable limits. Further investigation revealed that workers often where not utilizing effective work practice to engage and disengage the air-source.

Office Design Concern – 100 Work Stations

Office Design Concern – 100 Work Stations

Problem:

A large utility recently had relocated into a new facility. Primarily feedback by the employees identified a number of concerns with the office work station layout. Individuals could not access file drawers, individuals reported hitting their arm on the side surface and repetitively reaching was associated with working on files located on the desk (leading to lower back and arm concerns). The objective of the assessment was to determine whether a modification sufficiently minimized, or eliminated, the concerns identified by employees in the original design. The goal was to utilize the new work station, but ensure that health concerns were addressed.

Approach:

The following steps were completed to meet the objectives. First, a task analysis was conducted to determine task requirements, tools and equipment. The next step required observation and evaluation of the original design to fully understand employee concerns. To evaluate the potential prototype a three-dimensional (3D) model was constructed to analyze the design of the prototype against a range of body sizes in the population. The final step involved user trials with a number of employees at the prototype workstation to ensure concerns were identified and addressed prior to full-modification of 100 work stations.

Findings:

The prototype and 3D modelling allowed refinement of a proposed solution. Concern existed that all work stations would need to be replaced, but an option was identified and tested. The cost of the retrofit was $150/workstation as opposed to complete removal of the work station. Risk was significantly reduced with the retrofit and also allowed for the organization to move quickly on the modification in order to minimize downtown associated with the modification and total replacement.

Outcomes:

All work stations have been modified. Existing hardware including the keyboard tray could be salvaged and utilized in the design modification. Additional suggestions were incorporated so that a greater range of the population could be accommodated with the modification.

Individual Office Assessment

Individual Office Assessment

Problem:

A dispatch employee at a trucking company was under active treatment for damage to spinal discs. The employee had difficulty maintaining a seated position for prolonged periods without the onset of pain. Upwards of 4 other dispatchers need to use the employee’s workstation during alternate shifts. Also, during any one shift, there are a total of 5 dispatchers working at different workstations. The 5 workstations share one large work surface with height adjustable keyboard trays installed for each employee.

Approach:

A detailed history was collected from the employee to determine how the employee’s function was being affected both at home and at work. The next step was to meet the employee and observe daily work tasks to identify potential barriers to completing work tasks. Having knowledge of the employee’s medical condition combined with observations of workstation interactions allow for a full understating of what potential changes could take place to help minimize discomfort while completing work tasks.

Findings:

The employee had difficulty maintaining a seated position for prolonged periods without onset of pain, and was in need of a sit-stand workstation. However, upwards of 4 other dispatchers need to use the employee’s workstation during alternate shifts. Also, during any one shift, there are a total of 5 dispatchers working at different workstations. The 5 workstations share one large work surface with height adjustable keyboard trays installed for each employee. Supplying the injured employee with a sit-stand desk would require adaptation of the work surface for all other employees. Budgetary restrictions made this unfeasible.

Outcomes:

A selected solution involved the installation of a device that can be attached to the existing work surface, at the injured employee’s workstation, to replace the existing keyboard tray. This device was an ErgoTron WorkFit-S, Dual Monitor Sit-Stand Workstation with Work surface plus. This device would allow adaptation between the injured employee’s seated and standing work height, did not require adaptation of the shared work surface, allowed accommodation of seated work for all other employees, and the device could be removed during periods when the injured employee was not working