Industrial Ergonomics

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Introduction to Industrial Ergonomics

This section of the TIFAQ is dedicated to the exchange of information regarding musculoskeletal disorders in industrial environments, with an emphasis on manufacturing.  As a parallel to the office sections at the TIFAQ , the Industrial section will provide technical and product information that pertains to light and heavy manufacturing environments were people are assembling, testing, inspecting, and repairing hardware products.

Industrial vs Office Ergonomics

The cause and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in industrial environments requires multidisciplinary cooperation and involve a much wider range of variables than office environments.  For example, environment issues like cold, vibration, and protective clothing are typically not a concern in office environments.  The range of tasks in industrial environments is almost indescribable.  Just think -- every object you encounter during your day was manufactured somewhere and most had some human involvement. In addition, there are all the maintenance people keeping the facility, machinery, workstations in good working order.  Others are stocking parts while others are generatingshipping labels and loading trucks.  Entire departments are dedicated to rework and repair.  There are product testers and inspectors, laboratory workers, and forklift drivers.  Some stand on ladders while others lay on their backs, stand at a workstations, or sit at a desk.

Different types of assembly processes have different risks for musculoskeletal disorders.  Progressive assembly versus non-progressive assembly, machine paced versus self paced, piece part versus hourly pay -- all have unique concerns relative to musculoskeletal illnesses and injuries.

Material handling and product positioning are two of the key areas of concern because of the force requirements.  Force, coupled with awkward posture and repetition is a recipe for the development of musculoskeletal disorders.

Some folks work on items so small that all work is done with the aid of a high powered microscope while others are installing large tires on dirt moving equipment.  You have the Swiss watch and pacemaker assemblers, the circuit board repair folks, the people that wire up communications switching units, and the auto chassis assemblers.

Each of these examples has their own risks for work related musculoskeletal disorders. 

Dealing with Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Ontario Clothing Industry

UNITE recently completed a research project aimed at finding out what the risk factors were for these injuries in the clothing industry and how they can be prevented. The project was a joint effort by UNITE, the Institute for Work & Health and the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers. Funding for the project was provided by the Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Board.

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Last Updated: 02/04/02