Ergonomic Considerations in the Automotive Manufacturing Industry
The automotive manufacturing industry is one of the biggest players in providing ergonomic mandates for their plant employees. Many automotive manufacturing companies use existing health and safety standards, such as OSHA, to develop their own set of guidelines.
In an automotive manufacturing plant, there are many tasks that require the right kind of posture or equipment to handle or transport product in order to keep employees safe and healthy.
These key tasks include:
- Bending down, picking up a box or product, lifting and placing onto another location
- Twisting when carrying boxes or product
- Pushing and pulling tasks which require transporting a large quantity of product using carts and dollies
- Turning or bending wrists when using hand tools
- Hand vibrations from using power tools
- Reaching overhead for work
All of these automotive manufacturing tasks can result in serious injury if done incorrectly.
Bending down and picking up boxes or product
When bending down and picking up boxes, it’s important to keep the back straight and use your legs to move vertically. This reduces the risk of adding stresses to the spine.
Twisting when carrying boxes
A twisting motion when the body is carrying a load may cause injury to the spine. It’s important to avoid any carrying tasks that involve twisting the back.
Pushing and pulling tasks which requires transporting product
When executing pushing and pulling tasks, it’s important to avoid overexertion that may cause back injuries. Reducing pushing and pulling tasks can be done by using casters that will reduce the push/pull forces and therefore, reduce overexertion. If possible, implement a system that avoids pulling tasks, as this is a more strenuous technique than pushing.
Using casters with brake systems, floor locks or four position locks help the user to control the cart easily, reducing the risk of the cart potentially hitting them or others or damaging product.
Turning or bending wrists when using hand tools
When using hand tools, turning and bending wrists is a necessity. However, the user must observe their hand posture when using certain tools. Some tools are designed better than others and can eliminate strenuous positions. For example, using a straight handled screw driver can be replaced with a power screw driver with a vertical grip.
Hand vibrations when using power tools
Excessive vibrations from power tools can cause serious damage to the hands, including hand-arm vibration syndrome. To avoid this type of injury, equipment can include dampening materials such as damping sheets.
Reaching overhead for work
Reaching overhead for any type of work, whether it is to tighten a bolt or lifting to place a product, can be dangerous. In extreme cases, it could potentially cause death. To avoid this type of safety issue, ledges, racks or shelves should be placed at a height that is easily and comfortably accessible to the user.
An Ergonomic Mind in the Automotive Manufacturing Industry
By having an “ergonomic mind” and examining and improving each of these tasks, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of injury for workers in the automotive manufacturing industry and create a happy, productive workforce. To help organizations achieve ergonomic excellence, Darcor has developed the Guide to Workplace Ergonomics, a 13-page free download.
For more information, please check health and safety organizations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) for more recommendations and detail.