Ergonomics in the Factory

When you configure machinery in a factory or other production facility, you certainly have to consider efficiency. You’ll check those BEM drawings for cabinet doors that open into the path of another machine or into a major traffic pattern for human workers. You’ll also think about safety. It’s easy to recognize industrial machines as being potentially dangerous. Flashing metal darting to and fro and the deafening roar of a motor aren’t easy to ignore. However, industrial machinery isn’t the only potential health risk for factory workers. While not as obvious or exciting as the threat from factory machinery, things like posture and the movements that occur during everyday work can pose a threat to a worker’s health.

Ergonomics looks at efficiency between people and their working environment. This includes a number of different factors, but commonly people will talk about ergonomics in relation to safety and health, rather than just efficiency.

You might think that ergonomics only matters in office jobs. That’s partially because of the recent focus on the negative health affects of a sedentary lifestyle. There have been countless studies and articles explaining why sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day is bad for you. But ergonomics is important in factories as well.

There are a number of different risks that can negatively affect musculoskeletal health. Some of those risks will sound familiar:

  • Forceful actions and exertions
  • Repetitive motions, postures, and exertions
  • Extended periods of a certain posture or motion.
  • Inadequate rest periods
  • Contact pressure
  • Vibrations
  • Exposure to heat or cold
  • Work factors such as the pressure of an upcoming deadline
  • Environmental factors, which can include everything from your chair to the height of your workstation

These are all risks that can be common to manufacturing, packaging, and assembly work. This is why it’s so important to consider ergonomics in factories. Ergonomics injuries include repetitive motion disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, musculoskeletal, disorders and more.

This is actually an area where automation and motion control has been able to help workers. Many of the tasks that people once did that led to ergonomic injuries are now automated by machinery. Repetitive tasks and manual labor that is simple enough for robots to perform is reducing the number of dangerous jobs that humans have to do. Automation has definitely work easier and less physically demanding for humans, but ergonomics in factories still needs to be considered.