When reviewing statistics from the previous year, the Safety Manager at an aluminum castings company in the northwest saw something he couldn’t ignore. “Of all the injuries and complaints we had, 47% of them were the result of poor ergonomics,” he said. “We wanted to take a big bite out of our injuries, so improving ergonomics was our primary target going into the New Year.”
One of the first work cells targeted was the sand mold loading area, where the molds typically weigh about 50 pounds. The workers of this cell, which included shorter female employees, complained that the existing process was slow, cumbersome, and left them with fatigue and back pain.
In place was a 500 lb capacity I-beam jib crane with an air-activated hoist. “People hated using it,” said the Safety Manager. “The hoist was slow and would become tangled. The crane was overkill for the application and would over-swing, making it tough to position the load. What would happen is people would get frustrated and stop using it and start lifting everything by hand.” The manual lifting was creating problems in strain and fatigue complaints, but also in cuts to the operator’s hands and arms. “Enough was enough; we needed to improve the application.”