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Ergonomic Program Improvement Initiatives

winning entry 2011 GE Aviation

J.S.E.R.B. Ergonomics Program

The Problem
Middle River Aircraft Systems (MRAS) is a one-million square foot manufacturing facility with almost 1000 employees and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GE Aviation located in Baltimore, MD. The primary product of MRAS is thrust reversers, which are large composite engine case components that reverse the thrust of a jet engine in order to slow the plane for landing. The Joint Safety and Ergonomics Review Board (JSERB) Ergonomics team was jointly developed by MRAS management and local UAW union leaders as a solution to reduce and eliminate ergonomic accidents, which were the leading cause of injuries at MRAS, accounting for 27.4 percent of all injuries onsite. Since 2005, MRAS has had 61 recordable ergonomic injuries, which resulted in 1,058 days away from work and 928 days of work restriction.

The Solution
JSERB is divided into six committees of hourly and salary team members: Ergonomics, Incident Prevention, Accident Investigation, Environmental, Incentives & Rewards, and Communication. Hourly employees were engaged in the upstart of the JSERB program through logo designs, a teamwork slogan contest and the creation of team charters, ultimately developing a “brand” that employees bought into. The JSERB Ergonomics Team had the challenge of identifying ergonomic risks throughout the large one million square foot facility and then developing solutions to these risks through the implementation of a robust ergonomics program. A primary component of the JSERB Ergonomics program is identifying and addressing current ergonomic risks at the site. Through education and awareness, the team built a foundation of ergonomic awareness giving them the skills needed to solve problems on the manufacturing floor. The training, now conducted annually, has expanded to include both classroom and hands on learning for the manufacturing ergonomics team, the office ergonomics team, the lean manufacturing team and the manufacturing engineering team.

The second component of the JSERB Ergonomics program employs proactive prevention of future ergonomic risks. The team brought to the site the patented process of active release therapy (ART). ART is a non-recordable soft tissue treatment technique that breaks up the formation of scar-tissue to correct muscle functions and free nerve entrapment. The team has also developed an employee stretching program scheduled to be launched first quarter of 2011. The program has job specific stretches employees can perform throughout the day for 31 unique job tasks throughout the plant. JSERB is completely unique to MRAS and has become a “brand” that employees easily recognize and can actively buy into. The variety of program components and ongoing projects provide employees ample engagement opportunity at all levels. Program longevity and sustainability are ensured through constant team recruitment and union-management support.

In just over a year, the JSERB Ergonomics Team has had an outstanding impact on the reduction of ergonomic related injuries at Middle River. Recordable ergonomic injuries have been reduced by 84 percent and overall ergonomic injuries have been cut by 39 percent. Injury severity has also been greatly reduced with days away from work decreasing from 1,058 to 0 days and days with work restrictions decreasing from 928 to 56 days. The manufacturing ergonomics team has completed 49 ergonomic projects, which have directly affected 565 employees at Middle River. These projects range from highly technical custom solutions to simple off-the-shelf items. These solutions have resulted in an estimated annual operational savings of $278.8k from productivity and quality gains. Using past injury data, it is estimated through the project implementations that 12 ergonomic injuries will be avoided annually for a cost savings of $320.4k (using GE calculated average cost per musculoskeletal injury of $26.7k). The ART Program has provided an additional injury prevention savings of $1,037k through the surgery avoidance of 20 employees who had scheduled surgery appointments that were cancelled after the employees went to ART. Thus, the efforts of the JSERB Ergonomics Team have a savings of $1,646.4k in combined operational savings and injury/surgery prevention.

Caterpillar, Inc
Ergonomic Improvement Recognition Initiative

The Problem
Support for an ergonomics program can be difficult to acquire or sustain. The identification and prioritization of risk, allocation of resources, implementation of solutions and validation from the end-user requires considerable time and effort. The dedication essential to executing a risk reducing improvement was often overlooked or underappreciated due to velocity and cost oriented production goals. Often, senior leadership was unaware of the extent of the progress that is made on the production floor or the persons involved that drive ergonomic improvements.

The Solution
Each month, process planners are encouraged to submit ergonomic improvements made in their area into the "Ergonomic Improvement of the Month" competition. Entry into the competition includes providing project detail along with a before and after picture. All submissions are catalogued electronically, creating a library of improvements that is accessible to all process planners to reference for future improvements or to assist with the design of new work areas. A shop walk is held each month where senior leadership and EHS representatives recognize the process planning team’s hard work and commitment to Safety and Ergonomics. Shop walk attendees go to each of the project’s respective locations where the process planner explains the problem with the “before” process and then explains the solution while an operator from the area demonstrates the new and improved process.
After all of the projects for the month are reviewed, senior leadership and EHS personnel select one improvement as the winner. The decision is based on the following criteria: Innovation, Impact on increasing safety/ergonomics on the specific job being performed, Impact on business results, Ability to replicate improvement in other areas, Ability to easily sustain improvement.

After being selected as the “Ergonomic Improvement of the Month” winner, the process planner is eligible to compete in the “Ergonomic Improvement of the Year” competition. A shop walk, which follows the same format as the monthly competition is held, followed by a recognition luncheon with all of the monthly winners and facility leadership. The winner of the yearly competition is selected by the plant manager and is submitted to Caterpillar’s annual Corporate ergonomics project competition.

The Outcome
Since January 2009, 73 process planners have been recognized for the successful implementation of ergonomic improvements. During the review shop walk, operators assigned to the improvement area are given the opportunity to share the positive or negative implications of the project. This feedback plays an important role in the judge’s decision and helps Safety personnel and Group Managers determine if the project has met the criteria for final release. From January 2009 to present, a 78 percent reduction in risk has been experienced, from a cumulative baseline score of 3,812 to a residual risk rating score of 851 using the “Safety FMEA Risk Assessment Tool.” In addition, a 50+ percent reduction in ergonomic injuries has been experienced from 2007/2008 to 2010.

Quality: Improved equipment and processes are implemented on the shop floor as improvements are reviewed on the shop walk. Improvement projects are not “closed” out until all review items are corrected. Since January 2009, 64 ergonomic improvement projects have been fully reviewed, implemented and closed out after an ergonomic improvement of the month shop walk. In addition to the reduction in risk and injuries, many improvements have significantly impacted quality as well. One improvement titled “Double Filter Installation” addressed space constraints, which did not allow the assembler clearance to properly tighten eight bolts. Consequently, loose bolts were often found in the pressure check operation of this assembly and previously resulted in costly rework.

Velocity/Cost: It is impossible to quantify all of the time and money that has been saved by having a library of improvements readily available for process planners to view and get ideas for similar problems in their respective areas, but we recognize that it is significant. Implementing a solution that has already been successful in one area certainly lessens a process planner’s time and the company’s money that goes into finding effective solutions. Many of the individual projects have a significant impact on velocity and cost. One project titled “Rear Case Hose Installation” not only decreased ergonomic risk factors, but it also decreased takt time by 35 minutes, from 45 minutes down to 10 minutes. Another, titled “Large Hose Lifting Device,” allows for one operator to complete the task whereas before, the operation required two operators to install the seven large hoses.

Delta Air Lines

Baggage handling e-tool learning (2007 entry)

The Problem
The baggage handling electronic tool on the OSHA Web site needed to be revised to be more economically and operationally feasible for the airlines to assist in improved customer service. In addition, there was not a biomechanics training module to follow each step of the process that should be included in the handling of baggage.

The Solution
The National Safety Council, OSHA, and 13 airlines (Air Canada, Airtran Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, ATA Airlines, America West Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways) collaborated in revising the baggage handling tool for operational feasibility and consistent training among the airline personnel.

The implementation team, made up of representatives from all organizations, met at least quarterly to develop and enhance the published tool. A biomechanics training module was completed for the ticket counter, baggage makeup room and ramp area to be incorporated into the eTool. The biomechanics training module included general safety practices as well as specific biomechanics principles to address specific job functions. An agreement among the organizations had to be met for job functions, general terminology and equipment utilization in order to create consistent training material.

The Outcome
The project itself established a strong communication relationship among the airlines as well as with the regulatory agency in regards to baggage handling process consistency, equipment design and utilization, and training consistency. It is designed to adapt to each airline’s preferred method of training whether facilitated training class, CBT, or video. By pooling resources from each organization in knowledge and technical support, the travel expenses for each organization has been kept relatively low. However, overall cost is dependant on which method of delivery is chosen by the individual organization. The industry as a whole has reduced the musculoskeletal injuries 5 to 8 percent since the inception of the alliance due to the tool training and other alliance initiatives.

The revised tool now includes biomechanics training in a more consistent and process-oriented format for the frontline employees. The training tool can be found online.

winning entry 2007 GE Energy Learning Center

Online principles of ergonomics course

The Problem
In General Electric, the business standard for ergonomics training is the three-day instructor-led “Principles of Ergonomics” course. This course is required for all ergonomic site leaders. GE requires, at a minimum, at least one trained person at each site (more for larger sites) thereby potentially impacting all GE sites globally. It is difficult for distributed network businesses and small sites to host their own ergonomics course or to send one or more team members to an instructor-led course, both logistically and financially. Also, there is a limited number of instructor-led course offerings to reach the broad need required by global/distributed GE businesses.

The Solution

This project involved creating a blended solution of the “Principles of Ergonomics” course that required:

  • Development of a digital, self-paced “Principles of Ergonomics” course that students must successfully complete.
  • Development of a series of conference call learning sessions with an instructor that students must attend and actively participate.
  • Completion by each student of a site-specific ergonomics project by the end of the conference call sessions.

This digital solution eliminates travel time and greatly reduces cost. It also increases the overall reach to participants globally as more classes can be offered on an as-needed basis.

The Outcome
The immediate measurable result is that the cost to train each student was reduced from $4,380 per student to $1,500 per student by eliminating travel and living costs and time away from work. Also, each student must complete an ergonomics project at their site resulting in immediate ergonomic improvements with each student trained. Finally, we are able to arrange and offer classes as needed to a wider audience, expanding the impact of the course to more employees and sites.

winning entry 2009 General Electric, Oil & Gas, Florence, Italy
Beyond ergo basics and building an ergo culture

The Problem
The ergonomics program at Florence consisted of a number of elements that were loosely threaded and lacked consistency as to how they were implemented, and who was affected. Training tools and information were literally scattered in five different locations, creating inconsistency as to what employees received, as well as confusion on the program requirements. This resulted in a lack of program implementation and prevented any substantial ergonomics culture from taking roots.

The Solution
This project focused on streamlining and integrating the ergonomics evaluation and training process for Florence Campus office based employees (population 2,500). The team developed an innovative, interactive ergo Web portal that provided a streamlined single access point containing:

  • Training and self-evaluation interactive tools.
  • A request portal for a personal ergo evaluation of an employee office.
  • A platform for sharing best practices and easily find solutions provided for common ergonomic issues.

In conjunction, the site launched a “Create the Ergo Logo” competition for the business, which was extended to the entire O&G population (10,000 employees). They also held the first Ergo Day event. This event provided the opportunity to share ergo knowledge and to interact through one to one contacts, facilitating Ergo team exposure to the target audience. The campus educational channel was modified from pictures to use of live videos, which dramatically improved quality of information available to employees.

The Outcome

  • Accesses to portal: 262 in less than three months
  • Simplification: Ergo assessments requests increased and doubled in the three months after Ergo Day vs. three months before, driving risk assessment and tangible improvement
  • Respond to Ergo assessment requests in three days and complete in two weeks (previously completion in four weeks)
  • Reduction/elimination of risks
  • Ergo team new entries and Ergo Day effect, cross-functional participation, integration of ergo program
  • Family feeling and developed trust in the Ergo team and resources

Honda of America - Anna Aluminum Machining Dept.
Ergomation - A Comprehensive Training and Development Package (2009 entry)

The Problem
Production associates in the department are exposed to various ergonomic risks, such as bending, twisting and lifting to complete their tasks. During their orientation, they are trained about the various aspects of their job process, but without any specifics on proper ergonomic work techniques. Through observation, the team noticed that production associates were not always working in an ergonomically efficient manner. Some have developed poor habits through the years, exposing them to a higher potential for ergonomic-related injuries.

The Solution
The project team put several training ideas into one package. The team created posters and hung them in the various work areas to remind associates on proper work methods. The team also created "Process Informational Books" to explain how to perform each job step, as well as explaining why the process steps need to be completed in such manner, with proper ergonomic methods as well as good quality practices in mind. These instructions include historical safety information, key quality points, and other past problems in the work area. These Process Informational Books are located right at the process area, and are used as Continuous Enhancement Tools by allowing to associates to add new items to prevent problems from reoccurring. The coordinators of the production associates were also provided with follow-up assessment sheets that they can use. Ergonomics awareness questions are asked when using these assessment sheets.

The Outcome
After training all of the 27 production associates in the area, the team was able to eliminate all ergonomics-related injuries. The potential for future injuries has also been minimized. With better work methods, the potential for dropping parts as production associates complete their tasks is minimized, thus reducing scrap and other quality issues. Additionally, this has reduced downtime, as well as improved the run rate for the various processes. A survey of the production associates indicated that they are happy with the improved training. Hence, there has been significant cost savings and avoidances. With a startup cost of less than $51,500 which includes the cost of the training materials and the invested hours to complete the training materials and provide the training for 27 associates, the project team was able to generate a cost savings and avoidance of at least $136,000 on injury avoidance, on reduction in scrap and on the improvement of the run rate and reduction of downtime. Hence, the project has paid for itself in less than six months.

Johnson & Johnson: Wales

OCD ergonomics program 2006 (2007 entry)

The Problem

OCD Cardiff has had an active ergonomic risk reduction program since the year 2000, however the program had become a little stale. The program needed re-energizing.

The Solution

The following changes, improvements, and additions were identified as key factors to re-energing the ergonomic risk reduction program:

  • Structured ergonomic training for ergo team members and engineers
  • Ergonomics training added to the operator certification program
  • Specialist ergonomic training for the site ergo champion and HSE manager
  • Identified and named an ergonomics mascot: GARTH the Dragon
  • Held an ergonomics awareness week that included training, ergo assessments, quizzes and competitions, and implementing ergonomic fixes with computer workstations
  • Developed our first ergonomics newsletter
  • Assessed all computer workstations using the ergonomics job analyzer

The Outcome

  • All employees are aware of the mascot and the Cardiff ergonomics risk reduction program.
  • Ergonomics Web page launched on the OCD Cardiff intranet site.
  • Engineers, validation specialists, change managers, and ergonomics team members have received specialist ergonomics training.
  • Employee ergonomics suggestion scheme piloted with 33 suggestions received during Ergo Week.
  • Productivity improvements were implemented through the application of ergonomic assessments conducted at the design review phase.
  • An action tracker is currently in place to ensure computer workstations are correctly set up. Thirty-five PC screens were changed, 22 chairs are to be changed, two new desks, six headsets issued, and 14 footrests were ordered.
  • Ergonomic data is now now captured using our SUSA program.

Mary Kay Inc.

Channel 13 (2007 entry)

The Problem

We faced a problem of several ergonomic-related injuries to employees within the manufacturing facility. This was the result of a lack of ergonomic education in the workplace.

The Solution 

As a team, we developed goals and objectives which would enable us to educate our employees about ergonomics and the potential risks associated with ergonomics. We performed a series of training activities which focused on correct posture, stretching and how to correctly set up a work station. These activities included posture and stretching demonstrations during several floor meetings. We also conducted a series of office, industrial and task assessments throughout the year to correct any problems related to ergonomics within the employees' work spaces.

The Outcome
We found that as a result of our training activities we increased our employees' education levels regarding ergonomics. In order to measure our effectiveness, we randomly polled our employees and awarded them with prizes that included ergonomic tips as they answered correctly. We found that 90 percent of the employees polled at the end of the year answered the question correctly. We also finished out the remainder of the year without any additional ergonomic-related injuries.

Our presentation was filmed in our manufacturing facility where we randomly polled our employees on ergonomic-related questions. The setting simulates a news broadcast with on-the-scene reporting. During the programming we incorporated a clip of one of our actual ergonomic training activities performed this year. This clip acts as a commercial break during our news broadcast. The commercial features a performance by the "Ergonomic Steppers," performed during our Safety Idol contest. The Ergonomic Steppers performed a popular song, changing the lyrics to incorporate ergonomic education and tips.

Nexteer Automotive
Ergonomics Kaizen Process

The Problem
There was a need to improve the ergonomics of the workplace since the company's employees have consistently complained of pain in their back, shoulder and other body parts. This situation has raised the number of cases of removal from the job due to occupational diseases.

The Solution
An ergonomics kaizen process was established where an ergonomics consultant was used to train a multifunctional team, including cell operators, in the use of the OWAS postural analysis tool. This scientific tool was used by the team along with video and operator interviews to identify and prioritize risks in each job in a steering column assembly cell. The team used the results of the analysis to make corrections that reduced low risk items by 14 percent, medium risk items by 38 percent, and high risk items by 100 percent.

The Outcome
The ergonomic analysis process was based on the OWAS method, a scientific method to study the workplace ergonomic risks. This analysis enabled the identification and classification of all the ergonomic hazards of the job and consequently the elimination of 17 serious ergonomic risks. The team is now trained in the OWAS method and is now qualified to perform an ergonomics kaizen on other areas of the plant.

Northrop Grumman Newport News

The X10 south EH&S task team's ergonomic emphasis program (2007 entry)

The Problem
Employees were experiencing a large number of ergonomic-related injuries. Employees were adapting themselves to work locations and tools instead of having workstations and tools adapted to them.

The Solution
Our back and knee presentation personalized the need for back and knee safety and focused on ways to prevent these injuries. The presentation educated employees on financial costs as well as personal suffering and loss. We gave every attending employee a kneepad to be used at their job sites. In the ergonomics tool show, we displayed various tools available to assist employees. We solicited feedback from employees as to which tools would be beneficial and provided this information to management and the tool rooms in an effort to obtain them. Employees on our safety team wrote, acted in and assisted in directing "Necessity... the Mother of Invention." This "Caveman" video was designed to show employees that they are instrumental in the development of ergonomic tools. It gave them some examples of a better way to perform their jobs with ergonomic tools already available. Human engineering starts with considering the human factor. The luncheon and award ceremony tied in the entire Ergonomics Emphasis Program and recognized employees for their contributions.

The Outcome

  • Safety numbers due to ergonomic-related injuries have been held down despite addition of new employees.
  • Ergonomic tools are being utilized from the tool rooms, and tool rooms are now stocking new tools as a result of our program.
  • Our team's safety video, "Necessity... the Mother of Invention," is featured on the company's Intranet Web site for ergonomic safety.
  • The catch phrase in the ergonomics video, "There has to be a better way," is being echoed throughout the company whenever employees evaluate methods of performing their tasks.
  • Due to our program's success, we were asked to cascade the program throughout the entire division.
  • Our program was recognized by the company's safety department with its "Best Communication Project" award.

Northrop Grumman Newport News

Ergonomics I & II EH&S leadership principles courses (2007 entry)

The Problem
In 2005, we had too many injuries caused by overexertion lifting, pulling/pushing and awkward postures.

The Solution
Ergonomics I & II EH&S Leadership Principles courses are computer-based training courses designed to teach the supervisors the three major causes of ergonomic-related injuries: force, frequency, and posture. Supervisors are taught to be effective in recognizing, evaluating and controlling ergonomic hazards within their area of responsibility. This education initiative clearly explains how a supervisor can anticipate ergonomic risk factors that are associated with each job task.


The Outcome
This program was implemented this year and we have already seen a reduction of 5 percent in back and knee overexertion problems.