Mining Publication: Ergonomic Assessment of Musculoskeletal Risk Factors at Four Mine Sites: Underground Coal, Surface Copper, Surface Phosphate, and Underground Limestone
This study examined musculoskeletal injury risk at four mining sites: underground coal, underground limestone, surface copper, and surface phosphate. Each site offered opportunities to investigate musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injury risks and how those risks might be identified and categorized. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) worked with these sites to (1) identify work activities that showed evidence of MSD injury risk, (2) examine physical risk factors that can lead to MSDs for a handful of work tasks at each site, and (3) develop a set of ideas for problem-solving to help reduce risk factors for examined work tasks. For each site, NIOSH implemented a plan that was refined over the time period of this study. The plan consisted of four steps. The first step was to use mine injury records, a musculoskeletal discomfort questionnaire, front-line supervisor interviews, and a list of management concerns to identify work groups and work activities that have significant evidence of MSD risk factors. The second step was to select work tasks for evaluation. The third step was to interview those who do the work and make observations to characterize the MSD risk factors and musculoskeletal symptoms that exist for target tasks. The final step was to conduct brainstorming sessions with workers who perform the work or have a stake in the production task. The brainstorming sessions served to identify general strategies (ideas) for reducing MSD risk factor exposures. A final report of findings was presented to mine management and workforce representatives at each site. The risk factors and ideas for improvement identified for each site were specific to the target tasks examined. These target tasks were diverse, but there were some key similarities. For instance, jobs were found at each site that required a significant amount of manual work involving the upper extremities and low back. Handling heavy and awkward objects, forceful arm and shoulder exertions, and working in awkward postures were common for a variety of jobs across the four sites.