The Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS) presented the Ergonomic Innovation Award to Woolf Aircraft Products for realizing up to 400 percent productivity gains as a result of ergonomic changes.
The Ergonomic Innovation Award is issued to employers by CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation''s Consultation Education & Training Division for innovative ideas, which have been implemented to reduce worker strain.
"Woolf Aircraft has vigorously implemented a series of ergonomic changes to reduce cumulative trauma and overexertion injuries throughout their work environment," said CIS Director Kathleen Wilbur. "The company''s ergonomic efforts were initiated to protect its employees, but the company realized the added bonus of extraordinary gains in productivity."
Since 1942, Woolf Aircraft has produced tubular parts, weldments and sheet metal fabrications to consumer specifications from one to several thousand parts. They serve the aircraft, defense, commercial and transportation industries, and employ nearly 80 workers.
The award was presented to the Romulus fabrication facility in recognition of their significant ergonomic improvements that benefit various employees who perform repetitious operations in their work assignments, according to Wilbur.
Management at Woolf Aircraft worked closely with their employees to create several ergonomically friendly systems.
At their welding stations, the company introduced a much smaller and lighter torch, with a flexible neck, which can be manipulated into any position needed.
This significantly reduced both employee fatigue and overexertion.
At the four brazing stations, the company offered a torch to brazing operations that is 1.5 ounces, as opposed to the older torch which was 32 ounces (2 pounds).
The new torch can be held like a pencil, which allows the wrist to be held straighter, and reduces excessive strain to the hand and wrist.
Pressure testing is a critical area which assures product quality, however, it is also a source of potential ergonomic injuries.
Woolf incorporated a pressure testing system that is adaptable to the wide range of configurations of parts to be pressure tested.
Instead of clamps with screws, toggles were incorporated in this system, which allows for quick processing combined with greatly reduced fatigue.
Other items introduced include the use of air bladders in lieu of plugs and caps, which allows the operator to perform the test with no twisting, pushing or pulling.
In welding, large or heavy fixtures are used from time to time. Fixture stands are now utilized, which allows the welder to move or rotate the fixture into various positions with little or no effort.
These stands also have the added benefit of preventing welders from pinching their fingers or straining muscles when moving the fixtures.
Portable fixture stands are also available, which allows the fixture to be moved throughout the facility with ease. When necessary, a counter balancing part can also be added to a fixture stand, which allows the employee to move and rotate the part without effort.
A safety consultant with the Consultation Education & Training (CET) Division of CIS evaluated the proposal submitted by Woolf Aircraft, and conducted an onsite review to verify all aspects of its ergonomic changes. The consultants recommendations were reviewed by the MIOSHA Ergonomics Committee, which approved the award.
The CET Division has worked with Woolf Aircraft for more than 10 years. Safety consultants have provided periodic training activities and classes. Onsite consultants have also provided new equipment guarding information at the company''s request.
by Virginia Sutcliffe