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Simple Ergonomic Fixes Have Big Impact

Nov. 6, 2013
An ergonomic solutions competition highlighted simple ways companies can make a difference in employee safety and health.

Coca-Cola Refreshments in Dinuba, California, found a way to improve the posture of workers responsible for off-loading fruit from shipment containers to a collection bin. It didn’t involve a high-tech, expensive fix.

Associates simply designed and built a tool using spare pipe from their maintenance departmen
t. During the old process (left), a worker had to prop a door open using a shovel in one hand to control the flow of the fruit, while the other hand had to unlatch the door and sweep the fruit out of the container and into the bin. The tool allows for the fruit to be released without the hand support of the worker.

For this innovative, less physically taxing approach to a daily problem, the company took first place in Humantech’s Find It – Fix It Challenge. This recognizes and rewards simple and effective workplace solutions that increase productivity, improve worker morale and reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.

Honorable mentions for the Challenge were given to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, located in Riesa, Germany, and to Hitchiner Manufacturing, located in Milford, New Hampshire.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company received an honorable mention with its “Ergonomically Automated Lifting and Lowering Device” entry. Prior to the improvement, an operator had to change and move liner rolls while in awkward postures. With shrugged shoulders, poor grip and radial deviation postures in the hands and wrists, the operator had to carry the liner roll to the rack, and then lift and set it into its desired location. After adding an ergonomically automated lifting and lowering device to support the liner rolls, the operator’s new task is to push the device to the desired location, which eliminates the awkward postures.

Hitchiner Manufacturing also received an honorable mention with its “Refilling Wax Bead Barrels” entry. Initially, an operator had to pick up a 50-pound bag of wax beads from a pallet and push or carry it to a workstation. At least once per shift, the operator had to pick up the bag and dump beads into a barrel to refill it. This task required awkward postures, such as “Twist and Shout,” “Butts Up,” and “Wash Rag.”

Hitchiner Manufacturing employees designed and fabricated a wax bead filler. As a result, the operator now just pushes the near-empty barrel to the filler to be refilled. This improvement eliminated all heavy lifting and awkward postures, and prevents the operator from spilling beads onto the floor during dumping.

This contest was derived from Humantech's RAPID Team Events, which are based on the concept of making quick, simple, visible changes to improve ergonomic issues in the workplace. The winner and honorable mentions were selected from more than 180 entries, representing 41 companies.

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