Thursday, February 08, 2007

Working hard smarter

Ergonomics of lifting manhole covers ...

Richard W. Marklin Jr. lops branches, shovels clay, carves 30-pound cattle femurs, pulls 270-pound manhole covers and studies the workers who make their living performing these tasks.

Human labor is his laboratory.

The 50-year-old professor in Marquette University's mechanical engineering department examines the way we work and the toll that work takes on our joints, muscles and bones. Known as ergonomics, or human factors engineering, Marklin's field takes him from some of mankind's most primitive tools - the shovel and hammer - to some of its most advanced - the computer keyboard and optical scanner.

"As humans, we're very creative," he says. "We were given this very powerful brain, and we can design new products all the time and new tasks. But when new technology is introduced, it also introduces new problems."

While optical scanners greatly reduced checkout time at the grocery store, Marklin says, they required clerks to make the same wrist-lowering motion thousands of times a day at high speed, leading to a class of injuries known as cumulative trauma disorders. Wrist tendons grew sore and inflamed. They deteriorated.

More than a decade ago, Marklin and several colleagues at Ohio State University monitored the forearms and wrists of clerks and recommended the use of multiple scan beams to reduce wrist motion.

These days, Marklin works in the field and in his lab at N. 17th and W. Wells streets, testing the next generation of shovels, screwdrivers, branch loppers and computer keyboards."    (Continued via JS Online)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Manhole Cover Assist - Ergonomics

Manhole Cover Assist

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