ELYRIA, Ohio—“Why would we design jobs that require people to exert tension at the elbow joint with the arm fully extended?” asked Kent Hatcher, managing consultant and ergonomics engineer for Humantech.
Then Hatcher showed a picture of a woman working at a tire press, forced to do just that.
Ergonomics—the science of designing equipment to fit the human body's movements and cognitive abilities—is essential to any effective workplace environmental, health and safety program, he told his audience at the of the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers hnvironmental, Health & Safety Summit held at Lorain Community College.
Yet for an ergonomics program to be truly effective, EHS must partner with the plant's engineering department to develop and administer it, he said.
“Ergonomics is an engineering issue,” Hatcher said. “Ergonomics only becomes a health and safety concern once an injury has occurred. Ergonomic issues are rooted in product and work station design, and sustainable fixes are engineering controls.”
To be truly effective, an ergonomics program must be managed as a business process and must deliver value to the business in the form of greater production efficiency, Hatcher said.
He cited Toyota's production system, which incorporates ergonomics primarily to achieve profits by reducing costs and eliminating waste.
“You can add ergonomics to your operation without telling anyone,” he said. “It isn't a matter of warm, fuzzy feelings, but tangible production and profit benefits.”
Other companies are following Toyota's ergonomics program, Hatcher said.
For example, John Deere now designs its tractors with assemblers in mind.
Having employees play a significant role in ergonomics changes is key to a successful program, the Humantech official said.
Much of that effort is based on the science of anthrometry, the science of optimizing performance for most of the population based on studies of healthy, working-age adults.
Part of anthrometry, according to Hatcher, is the question of who you design work stations for. “Do you design for adjustability, for extremes or for the average?” he asked the audience.
What you definitely don't do, Hatcher said, is design for the average.
“When you design for the average, you limit the most,” he said.