Tilting cars on assembly line to protect autoworkers

May 15th, 2012 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 15 (IANS) Letting autoworkers sit as they reach a car’s interior could help prevent shoulder and back strain - but another solution might be to tilt the entire car so that workers can stand up.

That’s the finding of two recent studies, which tested two ways to protect auto workers from injury. Sitting on a cantilevered chair reduced the stress on the workers’ backs and shoulders for three common installation tasks.

A cantilever chair is one with no back legs, relying for support on the properties of the material from which it is made.

But a different strategy - tilting a car sideways on a carriage so that workers could access the interior while standing - reduced the stress for nine different tasks, the journal Applied Ergonomics reports.

The car carriage appears to be a better overall option for preventing injuries, explained William Marras, professor of integrated systems engineering at Ohio State University.

“Under these conditions, if you can tilt the car, the chair becomes unnecessary,” said Marras, who directs Ohio Centre for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing (COHAM), where the tests took place, according to an Ohio statement.

Honda Motor asked the COHAM team to test the commercially available chair as well as the car carrier, both of which are already used in some of its plants and by other manufacturers around the country.

Researchers tested a group of men and women, half of whom were experienced auto workers and the other half student volunteers or untrained auto workers.

In only three situations - installing the roof console and insulation and tightening bolts in the centre of the car - did sitting in the chair reduce loads on the spine and shoulder stress.

“We thought that sitting down inside the car would make installing the seat belt easier, but it turned out that you’d need two right hands,” said Sue Ferguson, senior research engineer at COHAM, who led the study.

A different strategy - tilting a car sideways on a carriage so that workers could access the interior while standing - reduced the stress for nine different tasks.

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