Monday, October 13, 2008

Mass Producing Ergonomics

Two of the world's largest automakers are also two of the biggest success stories when it comes to ergonomics and worker safety.

... Often the work safety argument is couched as the dichotomy between people and technology, with one always being more important than the other in producing results. But as the examples of Ford and Honda demonstrate, the answer is in the middle. You need both to succeed.

Sometimes, the best health and safety innovations come from your own employees. That's what management from Honda of America Manufacturing Inc.'s facility in Anna, Ohio learned when a group of its employees created a solution to reduce pushing and pulling risk hazards.

The company was recently awarded the 2008 Ergo Cup for engineering. The award, which is sponsored by the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina, celebrates problem solving efforts conducted by in-house engineers and ergonomists.

Brent Rankin, engineering coordinator at the plant, says the division was presented with the challenge of reducing push-pull forces found in carts that are used for transporting parts from the materials service department to the assembly line. Employees transport between 1,100 and 2,200 pounds of materials on these carts. The force used to get the carts moving placed employees at a significant risk of back injuries, he says.

"I think many industries have this problem," Rankin says. "We had looked at a variety of wheels and we thought that we had found the best caster we could use. However, we still had to overcome the initial inertia. Once you got the cart moving, it would roll fine."

Rankin says the engineering and ergonomics team examined a variety of approaches, including hydraulics and mechanical levers, to get the cart moving. However, the group settled on a different method.

... "The team was just not engineers," he says. "We had a group of associates on the line that took interest and wanted to solve the problem. We got together as a group and came up with a lot of different ideas. It is an ongoing process. This is one way our associates are very engaged in the ergonomics process."    (Continued via Risk & Insurance Online, CTDNews, Joshua Clifton)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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