APPLIED ERGONOMIC SOLUTIONS TO ELIMINATE HAZARDS IN CONVERTING APPLICATIONS. Sean L. Craig

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1 Sean L. Craig Winding Product Manager Tidland Corporation 2305 SE 8 th Avenue Camas, WA Tel: Fax: APPLIED ERGONOMIC SOLUTIONS TO ELIMINATE HAZARDS IN CONVERTING APPLICATIONS by Sean L. Craig Each year converting companies spend billions of dollars in workers compensation claims. After all the accounting is complete, those billions of dollars are simply deducted from their bottom line. And while those same companies will spend billions of dollars on new product development in order to become more profitable, what many fail to realize is that by simply investing a little time and applying some basic principles, the billions they spend on workers compensation claims could be channeled back into the bottom line. The means to recoup these lost dollars is called ergonomics and this paper provides an overview of what ergonomics is, the

2 Craig, ERGONOMICS FOR CONVERTERS Page 2 type of injuries it addresses and then looks at some practical applications of ergonomic solutions in the converting industry. Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing workplaces to match the capabilities of the human body. In short, it is matching the task to the worker and is a fundamental part of a full-orbed safety program. The primary objective of ergonomics is to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs or MSDs) which are non-traumatic disorders that involve the soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, blood vessels and nerves. Some common types of injuries are shown in the diagram. While the objective of ergonomics is to reduce the risk of injury to the worker, the costs alluded to earlier cannot be ignored if a company is to remain profitable in today s economy. The average cost per workers compensation claim is around $7800, but the average cost for a back injury claim is $51,000. Other injuries carry high cost tags as well: shoulder injury - $20,000; elbow injury - $13,000; carpel tunnel - $15,600 (SHARP technical report no WA). Furthermore, over 50% of all WMSDs are related to back injuries due to overexertion. These costs do not include hidden costs like lost wages, lost productivity, retraining and the myriad other costs associated with a lost time injury, which in the case of back injuries averages over 5 days and can exceed 20. But probably the most surprising aspect of WMSDs is that they are easily preventable. Ergonomics provides you with the tools to prevent them.

3 Craig, ERGONOMICS FOR CONVERTERS Page 3 WMSDs are a function of duration and intensity in any given task and this is why they are so easy to prevent. By affecting the duration and intensity of the workers actions while performing a task we can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Using tools to assess the duration and intensity of a task, ergonomics gives visibility to where the potential risks exist and then provides guidelines for eliminating the risk. The first step in identifying whether or not there is a risk of an injury is to determine which tasks in your operation are classified as caution zone jobs. This is any job or task where a risk factor may exist due to a combination of duration and intensity in the job. It is typically a regular and foreseeable part of the task and occurs more than once per day and more than one day per week. The main categories for such risk factors are awkward postures, high hand force, highly repetitive motion, repeated impact, heavy lifting(overexertion), and high vibration. Such actions as repeated twisting or kneeling, pinching an unsupported object, intensive keying, repeated use of the hand as a hammer, lifting below the knee, and using tools with high vibration levels are examples of activities that would fall into these categories. The table right summarizes the primary activities related to ergonomic injuries. These activities become caution zone jobs when there is a level of this activity that is beyond a

4 Craig, ERGONOMICS FOR CONVERTERS Page 4 recommended standard. And if a task is so identified it becomes a candidate for another round of assessment in order to determine if it is a hazard zone job. For example, if your worker performs a task that would be categorized as an awkward posture task due to twisting or kneeling and this type of activity is performed for 2 hours per day it would be labeled as a caution zone job. If the activity is performed more than 4 hours per day it would be labeled a hazard zone job and an ergonomic control should be put in place. Once you have identified jobs where hazards exist the next step is to implement effective controls that reduce or eliminate these hazards, There are two types of controls: administrative and engineered. Engineered controls are preferred because they more completely reduce the employee s risk of exposure to the hazard under review. These controls include workstation layout changes, improved tools (e.g. lighter weight, better grip, less resistant to force) or changes in the way materials and tools are transported and positioned in machines. Administrative controls focus more on procedure and policy changes such as rest breaks, worker rotation, additional training and best work practices. A general survey of a typical converting applications shows that shows that the average number of days away from work due to overexertion is well over five days with a high percentage of injuries resulting in over 20 days off work. Furthermore, an overview of most converting environments will yield many caution zone jobs that contain at least awkward

5 Craig, ERGONOMICS FOR CONVERTERS Page 5 postures, repeated impact and heavy lifting. Activities such as product transportation, manual material packaging, loading and unloading of rolls, and mechanical actuation of devices for each run of product all lend themselves to long term injuries. The table right provides an overview of additional hazard areas. Once the hazards are known, the key is to then eliminate them with engineered or administrative controls. Activity Potential Converting Hazards Highly Awkward High Hand Repetitive Repeated Posture Force Motion Impact Heavy Lifting Roll loading/removal v v v Roll positioning or alignment v v v Shaft loading/unloading v v Core loading/unloading v v v actuation v Core size changes v v Material Packaging/Transportation v v v maintenance v v High Vibration

6 Craig, ERGONOMICS FOR CONVERTERS Page 6 Some examples of successful engineered controls are shown in the following tables. Job/Task Roll: Handling Alignment Loading Shaft: Handling Loading Actuation Core Size Changes Maintenance Awkward Posture Automated roll handling equipment carts, carriers, conveyors Adjustable work surfaces or platforms Locate all materials close to the operator to reduce twisting motion Optimize material flow through workstation Adjustable work surfaces to position roll center from floor Automated shaft handling equipment Quick disconnect air valves Electrical/pneumatic wrenches Position Shaft/chuck at elbow height for ease of actuation Position shafts/chucks above elbow height (35-48 ) Position shafts/chucks above elbow height (35-48 ) Job/Task Roll: Handling Alignment Loading Shaft: Handling Loading Core Size Changes Maintenance Heavy Lifting Automated roll handling equipment carts, carriers, conveyors Adjustable work surfaces or platforms Reduce shaft/chuck weight Utilize cantilevered shaft systems Eliminate need for lifting Use lightweight adapters for changing from one core size to another Utilize on-machine maintenance features Implement bolt-on or slave-type adapters where possible Job/Task Roll: Handling Alignment Loading Maintenance Repeated Impact Roller bearings/surface treatments to reduce drag between shaft and core Adequate clearance between shaft/chuck OD and core ID to reduce drag Adequate lead-on tapers to facilitate inserting shaft/chuck into roll External bladder shaft designs Mechanical/hydraulic journal/spindle pullers Serviceable journal fits for internal bladder shafts from suppliers Ergonomics provides the tools necessary to protect your most valuable asset: your employees. And properly applied, most ergonomic solutions can be implemented with little expense to your organization by involving and listening to the people actually doing the work.

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