Friday Five – 6/9/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.
These links were generated during a PubMed search on the terms: ergonomics workplace and ergonomics musculoskeletal

Love et al.  look into the ergonomic issues associated with home health care workers and what can be done to reduce the risk of injury.

Ceshi et al. examine the impact of exhaustion, workplace demands, and workplace resources affect decision making and the subsequent impact on performance.

Pandalia et al.  investigate usage of a Composite Lifting Index to assess risk of low back pain in material handling tasks.

Chen et al. looked at the psychophysical limits on lifting a weighted box between younger and older female workers.  Women between the ages of 50 and 63 years old chose weights that were approximately 24% less than the younger co-hort (between 20 and 32 years old).

Antonucci et al. examined the effect of drill bit wear on vibration and task performance.  Drill bit wear creates an increase in the vibration of the drill and increases time to complete task performance.  Antonucci et al. recommend instituting drill bit replacement protocls for when drill bits become worn.

 

 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 5/24/17

Some days, what not to do is right in front of you.  When I was walking from the parking lot into the building, I noticed the ladder leaning against the building to access the roof.  The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the top of the ladder was extended just barely beyond the top edge of the wall.  It was not anywhere close to the minimum 3 feet that it should have extended past the access point between the ladder and the roof.

I went inside and grabbed my business partner to point out the ladder, but also to show him the new NIOSH Ladder Safety App.  It’s a simple but useful app that I’ve used out in the field on a couple of previous occasions to document fixed ladders on a worksite.  The nice thing about it is that it has a measuring tool that can tell you whether a ladder is placed at too shallow an angle, the appropriate angle, or too steep an angle.  When I placed my phone on the ladder, the ladder was at too shallow an angle – 72 degrees.  The shallow angle placement of the ladder is compounded by the fact that the feet of the ladder are placed on a downward sloping section of pavement.  Between the shallow angle, sloped pavement, and lack of ladder extension beyond the access point, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Correcting these mistakes is a simple fix:

  • Extend the ladder further – there is still plenty of extension left in this ladder.
  • Check the angle of the ladder to make sure that it isn’t too shallow or too steep.  The NIOSH Ladder Safety App is free and easy to use.  Almost everyone has a smart phone so there is no excuse not to use the app.

What Not To Do Wednesday – 5/10/17

This is a special WNTDW Worker’s Compensation Fraud edition.  A woman in Fort Lauderdale took advantage of a fallen piece of sprinkler in an attempt to create a work related injury.  While words are good and a picture tells a 1,000 words – nothing does justice to a story like this as much as video.

As was mentioned during a “30 Tips in 30 Minutes” session at the New Jersey Self-Insured Association convention last week, one of the most important things that can be done after an incident is not only to secure witness statements but secure any video that may be available of the incident in question.  This video was worth 18 months of probation.

Nike’s Marathon Fail – What Can We Learn

Over the past weekend, the culmination of Nike’s project to break 2 hours for the marathon distance came up just 24 seconds short.   The current world record for the marathon distance was set in 2014 by Dennis Kimetto when he ran a 2:02:57 to win the Berlin marathon.

Nike spent an incredible amount of resources in time, technology, and human capital in order to make this attempt.  While they were beat by the clock, they were successful in designing the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite.  A shoe that is 4% more energy efficient than any other shoe on the market – a running shoe so good that at least one runner who had the opportunity to train and race in it began to have nightmares that people were coming to take it away from her.

There are some important lessons that can be taken from Nike’s attempt:

  • Testing is important, but it is not everything.  Nike used a treadmill test developed by Andy Jones, PhD, a sports physiologist who identified Paula Radcliffe’s marathon potential, to help identify their potential record breaking runners.  However, Eliud Kipchoge’s potential on the treadmill test protocol was not as promising – because it was only the second time he had ever run on a treadmill.  There is a reason why physical abilities testing is not supposed to include tasks that can be performed better by those that are skilled than those that are novices.
  • Just because it improves performance doesn’t mean it works #1 – Nike left no stone unturned in their pursuit to find the performance gains necessary to break 2 hours.  One of the tweaks involved using webbed shirts that created a sling to support the arms while running.  This helped to improve performance but runners did not like the feel as they felt like they had T-Rex arms.  That’s great that something improves performance, but if it doesn’t “work” for the worker, it doesn’t work.
  • Just because it improves performance doesn’t mean it works #2 – Nike experimented with track spikes for improved performance and they also experimented with taking away anything that wasn’t needed.  The shoes were incredibly light, but unwearable.  This drove Nike’s team to try to design what they termed the “right weight” shoe.  Tools and processes should be designed to fit the task and the workers performing the task – the best tool or process takes both of these into consideration.
  • Use what you’ve learned from other areas – Back in the days of Nike’s affiliation with Lance Armstrong and his chase of Tour de France titles, Nike and Trek created the F1 project that looked at the different variables that created minor amounts of drag, such as where the race number is placed on the cycling jersey.  Nike applied these techniques to the running uniforms as well as the formation of the pacers to help reduce fatigue in the racers created by breaking their own wind.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, see what has been learned in other areas that applies to the task at hand.
  • You can’t control all of the variables –  Nike controlled as many variables as possible down to the track, pacers, etc.  The one set of variables that they had no control over was the weather.  In a task where they were trying to shave 2.4% off of the world record time, every variable matters.  The optimal temperature for the event had been determined to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower with a humidity of 70%. Race day temperature on the track was 53 degrees with 79% humidity.  Three degrees doesn’t seem like much, but it was a six percent difference in the wrong direction from the optimal temperature.   We can control what we can and have to deal with the rest as it happens. Also, when dealing with people performing labor oriented tasks whether inside or outside, what would seem like small differences in temperature can make a huge difference in task performance.

It will be interesting to see how Nike applies the lessons that they have learned from this attempt to future attempts at breaking the record.  I hope that they make another attempt in the future.

Friday Five – 4/28/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

These links were generated during a PubMed search on the terms: applied ergonomics

Lee et al. investigated the position of two different wearable sensor systems on the posture of construction workers while performing assigned tasks in a laboratory.  As those who have worked with motion capture devices know, placement of these sensors is everything in terms of collected data.

He et al. look at using Google Glass to monitor eye blinking in drivers to determine signs of drowsiness.  Distracted driving is something that we’ve hit upon in other posts.  Technology such as this may be able to go along way in helping drivers to recognize when they are too fatigued to drive safely.

Schmidt et al. investigated a different way of dealing with fatigue during long drives through the use of a cooling device to help improve alertness.

Armstrong et al. reviewed the impact of two paramedic services transitioning to a powered stretcher to help reduce injuries related to patient transport.  This appears to be a cost-effective solution with a reduction in injuries during patient transport.

Hlavenka et al. investigated the effect of neck posture during lifting tasks on both lumbar spine posture and activation of trunk musculature.  They indicate that a retracted neck posture may help to lower the risk of pain and injury during lifting tasks.

 

Friday Five 4/21/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

These links were generated during a PubMed search on the terms: ergonomics and obesity and using the new relevance button.

Cavuato and Nussbaum examined the effects of age and obesity on the performance of upper extremity activities.  They noted impairments in task performance due to fatigue, loss of strength, and discomfort during task performance related to obesity but not related to age.

Koepp et al. reviewed injury data from the Idaho National Laboratory which belongs to the Department of Energy.   In reviewing six years worth of injury data, 51% of those involved in slip, trip, and fall injuries were obese based on BMI values with a mean BMI of 31+/- 6.   This is similar to data from Ren et al. that looked at injuries in Texas which found a significant association between higher BMI levels and injuries from falls in an over 45 population.

DePaula et al.  looked into the relationship of loaded school backpacks and students (aged 10-19).  As 53 of the 339 students were considered to be obese, they provide the reminder that when looking at group data when generating percentage of body weight load for backpacks, the anthropometric breakdown for those in the sample group needs to be looked at.

Lerner et al. looked at a new marker set for collection of kinematic and kinetic data for obese subjects during gait testing.  The new obesity specific marker set was compared against a modified Helen Hayes marker set and found to have good agreement in non-obese subjects.  A significant effect was seen when comparing the marker sets with obese subjects.

Thorp et al. found that altering posture from sitting to standing every 30 minutes across the workday reduced fatigue levels and lower back pain in obese office workers while maintaining productivity.  They recommend future investigations to determine whether sustained use of adjustable height workstations affects concentration.

 

 

 

Friday Five – 4/7/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

One of the topics in the news of late that I find to be interesting is the incorporation of new technologies into the automation of the workplace.  These articles are all current as of this week.

A Dallas, Texas based landscaping company has added 50 lawn cutting robots to its workforce with plans to add another 50 to 100 robots each month.  These Roomba style robots for the yard are rented to customers on a monthly basis.

Michael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi from the McKinsey Quarterly provide a breakdown on which areas of the workforce machines are able to now replace human workers.  The article breakdown the five criteria for replacement of human workers by automation: technical feasibility, cost to automate, benefits of automation, scarcity of skilled workers to perform the task, and the acceptability of automating the position.

Adam C. Uzialko of Business News Daily provides a solid reminder that workplace automation is not solely the realm of robots performing tasks.  Some of the recently automated tasks that he discusses include the logistics associated with looking for and screening new hire candidates.

Locus Robotics has developed warehouse technology that does not replace human selectors but works alongside humans.  Human selectors patrol areas of the DHL warehouse to place requested items in the Locus Robot which roams the warehouse.  In theory, this reduces the amount of walking that human workers perform as the robot takes up that part of the task.  Locus Robotics current solution is finding the areas that allow humans and robots to complement each other rather than replace ach other as they find this to be more cost effective.

3-D printing of clothing might help to send people back to the retail stores for purchasing of clothing instead of purchasing clothing online.  Ministry of Supply is a clothing brand that is introducing custom 3-d printed clothing to its stores.  This allows for clothing that is custom fit to the end purchaser as well as generating less waste materials due to the 3-d printing method.

 

Friday Five – 3/31/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product or research paper.

This week’s five are courtesy of a PubMed search on the terms: applied ergonomics

Manghisi et al. look at the use of the Kinect V2  (the newer generation of the Kinect) for performing RULA assessments to evaluate awkward postures.  Devices like the Kinect are interesting to me as they may allow for more natural evaluations of human movement in real life work settings.

Sedighi Maman et al. look at the use of wearable technologies for evaluating a data driven model for physical fatigue in the workplace.

JA Dobson et al. provide a literature review of work boot design and the impact on how workers walk(This is an important topic area that came up yesterday when we were in the field performing assessments for a customized job description.  The particular job has a variety of varied tasks with some that require steel toed boots.  The biggest complaint of the employees is comfort of steel toed boots for the tasks performed.)

Kang and Shin performed a study to determine the impact on accuracy and muscle activation patterns when target location is varied on computer touch screens.  This is going to be an important area for human factors and user interface professionals as touch screens become more common in the workplace.

Plamondon et al. look at the differences in how male and female workers lifting palletized loads with the same relative weight.   This study uses a similar lifting load weight to remove strength from the equation when looking at how the task is performed biomechanically.  While patterns between male and female subjects were similar, interjoint coordination differs.  Understanding of these differences can help with interventions to better reduce material handling injuries.

 

 

 

 

Friday Five – 3/24/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

This week’s Five are new entries to PubMed under the search terms of: occupational safety.

Smith et al. look at physical activity assessment tools that are used in primary care.  They found that the tools are not sufficient to give practitioners the information necessary to guide interventions.  This is not surprising as most of the public does not have a solid concept of the level of physical activity that they perform across a given week.

Samelli et al. review the efficacy of using a tablet based hearing test.  For areas where there is low access to audiologists for hearing tests, this may be of interest.

Spira-Cohen et al. spent several weeks recording sound level data in New York City restaurants, bars, lounges, and clubs as part of a pilot study to assess sound level exposure to employees and patrons.  Of note, “In 49% (N=29) of the venues, the visit exceeded the maximum allowable daily noise dose based on National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 85 dBA 8-hr Time-Weighted Average (TWA)”

Hemmatjo et al. investigated the effect of different cooling strategies (cooling vest, cooling gel, cooling gel + vest) on firefighters when performing simulated firefighting tasks.

Kajiki et al. performed a randomized clinical trial of participating ergonomic intervention training that looked at low back training in a work environment.  It isn’t often that companies are willing to place their employees in studies such as this.  The authors include a good discussion about the results of their study and limitations within the study.  They also acknowledge that the ergonomic intervention training has a half-life (my choice of terminology) – over time, the impact of training wears off and needs to be repeated on a regular basis.  This is something that we have seen with clients that we provide material handling training services.

 

What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/22/17

Two recent stories have popped up in the last week that have to do with the wording of job descriptions and the impact of choice of words as well as the choice to use/not use the Oxford Comma.

In Maine, three truck drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued their employer over the non-payment of overtime hours.  The case went to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals and hinged on a small detail – the Oxford Comma.  Maine law specifies specific tasks that are exempt from overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

The legal question hinges on whether “packing for shipment or distribution of” means “packing for shipment or distribution of” or “packing for shipment” and “distribution of” are two separate tasks.  The drivers were not a part of the packing for shipment (or packing for shipment and distribution) but were part of the distribution of the product.

Currently, the Court of Appeals has sided with the drivers that the statement means packing for “shipment and distribution” and not inclusive of the distribution of the packed product.  This missing comma has a potential value in the millions of dollars.

In a separate case, noted on John Geaney’s Workcomp Blog, he details the case of a pharmaceutical sales representative who developed vision problems that prevented her from being able to drive.  When the sales representative lost her ability to drive due to vision issues, she requested that Pfizer, her employer, provide her with a driver to drive her to sales appointments.  Pfizer declined this option and offered her a change in position to one which did not require driving to sales appointments.  The sales representative turned down that offer and filed an ADA case.  The case revolves around whether driving is an essential demand of the position.  Pfizer contends that driving to and from sales appointments is an essential demand while the sales representative contends that the ability to travel to and from sales appointments is the essential demand.  Unfortunately, the employer never listed the ability to drive or the requirement of a driver’s license as essential demands of the position. The appeals court has remanded the trial so that it can be determined whether driving is an essential demand for the position.

While this What To Do Wednesday post isn’t the typical, don’t be like the guy in this picture or story, it still presents important information of What Not To Do.  It can no longer be assumed that because a task is an essential demand due to longstanding tradition or an assumption of common sense dictates it to be.  Also, employers need to be aware of the potential grammar issues in job descriptions that may pose a problem when it comes to either payment for work performed or whether assigned tasks are included in the tasks covered by a specific law.