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Ergonomic solutions for furniture manufacturers.

Mirka GA; Cormier D; Taylor J
NIOSH 2003 Dec; :1-102
The specific aims of this project were to study the effectiveness and the efficacy of ergonomic interventions for the reduction of musculoskeletal injuries/illnesses in the furniture manufacturing industry and, more globally, to explore ways that ergonomic interventions can be introduced/promoted to increase the likelihood of their acceptance by the users. This research effort can be broken down into seven research projects that were completed during the period of this grant. The aim of Project #1 was to identify those jobs and work tasks that were most problematic from the perspective of musculoskeletal injury/illness. This was accomplished through a large-scale review of historical records (OSHA Form 200 Logs) and through a survey of experienced furniture industry professionals. The result of this structured analysis was a list of jobs/work tasks prioritized in terms of numbers and severity of musculoskeletal injury/illness risk. The aim of Project #2 was to identify the specific physical risk factors posed by these prioritized jobs. This process involved significant video analysis time wherein the physical stressors were documented, but also baseline productivity levels were established. The result of this video task analysis process was a detailed description of the physical exposures (forces, postures, repetition rates, exposure to vibration, etc.) and a pre-intervention description of typical productivity levels. The aim of Project #3 was to design, engineer and prototype engineering and work practice controls that were developed with the expressed goal of eliminating or reducing exposure to the identified risk factors. This process was most often an iterative process that involved both lab testing (see Project #4 below) as well as feedback from line workers (see Project #5 below). In virtually all of the projects attempted this resulted in a series of prototypes that to varying degrees addressed the magnitude of the exposure to the identified risk factors and also to varying degrees impacted the productivity of the operators. The aim of Project #4 was to perform a formal laboratory analysis of the prototypes developed through Project #3. This project involved the use of highly accurate bioinstrumentation (electromyography, electrogoniometry, magnetic-based motion analysis systems) to precisely quantify the impact of the prototyped interventions on the risk factors that the prototypes were designed to address. The result of this structured, formal, biomechanical analysis of these prototypes was quantitative information with regard to the prototype that 1) illustrated that the prototype was ready for a formal field assessment (Project #5) or 2) the prototype could/should be re-engineered and reprototyped to arrive at a design that is able to further reduce exposure to the identified risk factors. Often simple measures of productivity were considered in this analysis, but the laboratory assessments were generally performed using college students as the subjects, and therefore the impact of the prototype on productivity levels was generally viewed with care. The aim of Project #5 was to perform a formal field analysis of the prototypes developed through Project #3 and assessed in Project #4. This project involved the use the same video analysis techniques employed in Project #2 including a quantitative documentation of the ergonomic risk factors and productivity. The typical process used in these analyses was to videotape a worker for one full day using their normal (no intervention) techniques and tools. The team would then introduce the intervention and videotape the worker using the intervention for the first full day of use. The research team would then return one week later to assess how the operator has/has not adapted their technique to make use of the prototype and gain feedback to strengths and weaknesses of the ideas. In some cases the prototype would then be removed from the facility and the research team would begin work on re-engineering the design. In cases where the prototype showed promise, the intervention would be left in place for a period of up to two months with the research team returning periodically to perform the detailed video task analysis. Project #6 was an evaluation of the effects of the participatory ergonomics technique in the acceptance of the ergonomic interventions. Some of the subjects in our field testing participated in the iterative engineering-testing-re-engineering process while others did not. This allowed the research team to evaluate the impact of this participation in the ultimate acceptance of the intervention. Project #7 was also a study that considered ways that interventions could be developed/presented to increase the likelihood of their acceptance. In this study subjects were exposed to an ergonomic intervention that had obvious positive ergonomic benefits but also had short-term negative effects on productivity. Some subjects received positive feedback through the adjustment period while others did not. This allowed the research team to assess the impact of positive feedback during the intervention process and gave the research team further insight into ways that interventions in general can be presented to overcome some of the initial reticence that is so often experienced in ergonomic intervention research. In addition to the structured research efforts of this project, there were also considerable efforts in the form of technology transfer and these efforts took several forms. The first was the more traditional publication of these works in the refereed archival journals and furniture industry trade publications (See Publications section of this report). The second form was the continued industrial development of some of the ergonomic concepts developed through this research effort. The third form of technology transfer that resulted from this effort was the development of the AFMA Voluntary Ergonomics Guideline. As a result of the on-going interactions with the furniture manufacturing industry that this project promoted, the AFMA took the unprecedented step of developing the first industry-initiated ergonomics guidelines. Many of the solutions that were developed as a result of this research effort are featured prominently in the best-practices sections of the guideline.
Ergonomics; Furniture-manufacture; Furniture-workers; Furniture-industry; Injuries; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Occupational-exposure; Vibration-exposure; Risk-factors
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Final Grant Report
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Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division