Mining Topic: Ergonomics and MSD Prevention
What is the health and safety problem?
Ergonomics is the science of designing tasks, equipment, tools, and work environments to accommodate the capabilities and limitations of the majority of the workforce. Ergonomics enhances human performance including the health, safety, and productivity. Ergonomics efforts in mining aim to prevent musculoskeletal disorders by reducing exposure to awkward postures, high force exertions, and task repetition. Outdoor and underground work environments exacerbate exposure and make ergonomics efforts more challenging than in other industry sectors.
What is the extent of the problem?
According to an OMSHR study comparing 1983–1984 and 2003–2004 MSHA data, the percentage of cumulative injuries was similar (37% and 33%), but many more work days were lost due to injury in 2003–2004. Cumulative back injuries decreased by 10%, potentially due to use of assist devices, but cumulative knee injuries increased by 8%, possibly a result of kneeling/crawling in low-seam mines.
How is the NIOSH Mining program addressing this problem?
The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research’s recent and current research has been designed to provide tools to help mines identify risk factors and implement and audit ergonomics processes, as well as provide specific interventions to address ergonomics problems in mining. Two current projects involve developing ergonomics audits for specific types of operations (haul truck operation, bagging operations, and maintenance and repair in processing and preparation plants) and developing a knee pad for low-seam mining environments. These projects use a mix of laboratory and field investigations to assess the problems and develop guidelines for remediating ergonomics issues.
What are the significant findings?
Cumulative injuries are a major financial burden to the industry, but using NIOSH-developed tools for incorporating ergonomics in the workplace was shown to be a tremendous success, indicating that ergonomics can be used to reduce injuries and costs.
OMSHR has published two ICs on ergonomics processes and participatory methods for mines: Ergonomics Process and Risk Factor Awareness. Practical Demonstrations of Ergonomics Principles was developed to provide safety trainers with several demonstrations for teaching ergonomics principles to mine workers.
With attention focused on the knee, OMSHR published on preventing injury in Keeping Knees Healthy, and summarized experimental investigations of pressures and moments on the knee during different activities and while wearing different knee pads. It details stress distributions while wearing commonly-worn kneepads as well as physiological and biomechanical responses due to different postures and modes of locomotion.
What are the next steps?
Both the knee and audit projects are at the stage of finalizing outputs. Once the audits are finalized, they will be published in a document as well in mobile applications for phone and tablet use.
- Age Awareness Training for Miners
- An Analysis of the Potential of Roof Screening to Reduce Workers' Compensation Costs
- A Checklist for Evaluating Cab Design of Construction Equipment
- Comparison of Whole-Body Vibration Exposures on Older and Newer Haulage Trucks at an Aggregate Stone Quarry Operation
- Development and Evaluation of Prototype Kneepads for the Low-Seam Mining Industry
- Ergonomic and Existing Seat Designs Compared on Underground Mine Haulage Vehicles
- Ergonomic Interventions at Unimin
- Ergonomic Interventions at Vulcan Materials Company
- Ergonomics Processes: Implementation Guide and Tools for the Mining Industry
- Ergonomics: Beyond Compliance
- Forces and Moments on the Knee During Kneeling and Squatting
- Implementation of an Ergonomics Process at a US Surface Coal Mine
- Keeping Knees Healthy in Restricted Work Spaces: Applications in Low-Seam Mining
- Physical Strength Assessment in Ergonomics
- Practical Demonstrations of Ergonomic Principles
- Pressure Distribution on the Anatomic Landmarks of the Knee and the Effect of Kneepads
- Proceedings of the Second American Conference on Human Vibration
- Reducing Low Back Pain and Disability in Mining
- Using Ergonomics To Enhance Safe Production At a Surface Coal Mine - A Case Study With Powder Crews
- Working in Unusual or Restricted Postures
- Page last reviewed: 6/4/2014
- Page last updated: 10/23/2012
- Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Mining Program