Ergonomics done right.®
June 21st, 2011

Ergonomics Tips for Lean Events: How Much is Too Little?

By Rick Barker, CPE

During a lean or continuous improvement event, teams often look for ways to reduce the footprint of a workstation. In some cases, this reduction is a measureable goal of the event. Less floor space means lower overhead cost. A smaller footprint can also benefit the employee by reducing the amount of reaching and walking. Although it’s generally a good idea to strive for a smaller workspace, the desire to reduce space can interfere with an operator’s ability to perform the task well and can introduce ergonomic risk factors. For instance, when working at an assembly bench, the operator needs sufficient free space on both sides to accommodate the width of his or her body (or the width of the part), plus sufficient space for arm and tool movements. This requires at least 46” of horizontal space, sometimes more when the part or tool is particularly large.

Other space considerations include:

  • Width of the walk space between machines and/or storage carts (48” minimum)
  • Knee well width (30” minimum) and depth (18” minimum) for seated tasks
  • Space to walk around to the sides of a pallet or box for loading (29” minimum)

Ergonomic design guidelines like these can help teams implement workplace modifications that correspond to human capabilities and limitations, simultaneously maximizing operator safety and productivity. Applying the guidelines during lean events will ensure that the improvements implemented are effective in meeting these goals.