Ergonomics done right.®
January 25th, 2013

Q & A From Ten Common Issues Webinar

Thank you to those of you who attended our webinar this week, Ten Common Issues in Industry and How to Solve Them. Below are the questions some of you posed during the session and our responses. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

Q: ­Could you review the criteria for Horizontal Distance once again, please. Thanks!­

A: Horizontal distance is working far away from the body, either in front or to the side.  If a work activity requires a far reach, the potential for ergonomic risks to the shoulders and back increases.  Horizontal distance also increases the time necessary to complete an activity. Reaching may be necessary, but excessive reaching is wasteful and inefficient.  Reach distance to frequently retrieved, and heavy parts should be no more than 16” away from the worker.  By eliminating or reducing far reaches, work activities become faster and easier to perform.

Q: ­What advice can you give when the task has both high forces and intricate work simultaneously?­

A: Look for opportunities to set up the workstation for each of the tasks.  For example, if the operator is responsible for performing intricate tasks on a heavy part and that heavy part needs to be constantly manipulated, design a fixture for the part to eliminate manually flipping/rotating the part.  If, high force is required to modify a part using a tool but the operator needs to see what they’re working on, the workstation will often be setup with a magnifying inspection lamp so that the work can be placed a little lower for the heavy tasks, but the operator can keep their head in a more neutral position.  Making sure the operator has tools (hand or powered) to replace any manual tasks will also decrease the risk in this case.

Q: ­Are there “good vibes” or an acceptable level of vibration?­

A: The ANSI, ACGIH, European Union Directive for HAV, or International ISO standards are most commonly used to determine acceptable thresholds for Segmental and Whole-body Vibration.  The acceptable levels are based on exposure.  For an 8-hour shift, the maximum level for segmental hand-arm vibration exposure is 4 m/s2 with an ideal level of 2.5 m/s2.  Whole-body Vibration Exposure for an 8-hour shift is 0.315 m/s2 (longitudinal) and 0.224 m/s2 (transverse).

Q: How do you feel about strength training? We do daily stretching, but we still have too many ergonomic related injuries.

A: Wellness programs such as strength training and stretching programs can be very helpful, but we advocate these types of controls in conjunction with engineering controls.  Engineering controls or eliminating the present hazards should be the first line of defense against injuries.  Humantech recently published a white paper on stretching programs.

Health and fitness, including strength training, is a great way to improve your overall health and this can have an impact on the development of injuries, however even if we develop the strongest workforce, that does not necessarily mean that they can perform high risk jobs injury-free.

Q:Is it possible to recommend an ergonomic solution for everyone (people not in the “average-height” category)? What do you tell those people if an ergonomic solution cannot be recommended?

A: The goal of ergonomic design guidelines and company standards are to accommodate for as much of the working population as we can.  However, there will inevitable be people who are outside of the height ranges for a 5th percentile female and a 95th percentile male.  Those individuals may require specific improvements (removable platform or height adjustable workstation) but in the majority of cases, a well-design workstation will actually be acceptable for 99% of the workforce.