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Ohio State: Ergonomic equipment reduces auto worker injuries

A recent study from Ohio State University suggests that automobile manufacturers may need to rethink how they set up their assembly lines in order to prevent workplace injuries.

According to the University's Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing, hanging a car frame from an overhead carriage can reduce muscular and joint stress on workers. The ideal carriage tilts as needed, allowing assembly line workers standing below to easily reach the appropriate portion of the automobile.

Another recent ergonomic study says suggests that allowing automobile assembly workers to sit on special chairs when they reach inside to install car parts helps prevent injuries originating in the back and shoulders.

The special chair sits on the end of a metal beam that the worker moves around with his or her feet and legs. Originally the "cantilevered" chairs cost $100,000, but that price has now come down to about $4,000 after the original design was altered.

The chair reduced harmful stress in three different assembly tasks--installation of the car's roof console, installation of the insulation, and the tightening of bolts in the center of the car.

The overhead carriage reduced harmful stress associated with nine different assembly tasks.

Both the special chairs and the carriages are already used in some car manufacturing plants.

The type of injuries these techniques propose to reduce are ergonomic, i.e., the sort of workplace injury that results from repeated or severe stress on the human body.

In the past, Honda has used Ohio State's automotive manufacturing studies to reduce overall job-related injuries by a reported 70 percent.

Source: Claims Journal, "Tilting Cars on Assembly Line May Prevent Autoworker Injuries," May 16, 2012

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