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Article # 10109

When Man Meets Machine: How Ergonomic Solutions Create Safe and Happy Partnerships.

When workers at a large home appliance manufacturer needed extra help snapping in a plastic part on their freezers, they took matters into their own hands-literally. The breaker, a plastic piece that separates the heating and cooling elements in the freezer, normally would snap into place. However, if it needed an extra push, there were tools handy to tap the piece into place. Workers concerned that the tools might damage the freezers, often times chose to hit the breakers with the palms of their hands to snap them in. "Their hands hurt!" says Bill Donely, manufacturing service manager for the facility that makes upright and chest freezers.

"We weren't seeing any injuries," continues Donely, "just some sore palms. We decided, however, that we needed to fix this problem before it became serious. "Donely called on his Magid representative to help him solve the dilemma. "We can always count on Magid to help us with any safety issues in our facility," he says. "Our rep spends a lot of time out on the line talking to supervisors and workers to find out what they need to help them do their jobs safely and comfortably. "In this case, the appliance manufacturer and Magid found the solution in fingerless gloves with a sorbothane patch in the palm. "The glove is usually used by workers to help cushion hands from vibrations," notes Donely. "But it also solved our problem in this area too! Thanks to the proactive solution from our Magid rep, we were able to prevent injuries and lost time."

Reducing Injuries and Increasing Comfort
Tim Bond, manager of environmental health and safety for a major tire corporation has also been very happy with the performance of Magid's anti-vibration gloves. In particular, the gel-filled fingerless glove is a popular style with workers who stitch on rubber products. "Because the glove is fingerless, workers can effectively grip their hand tools. And the gel helps to reduce pressure and prevent calluses. Employees' hands are not as tired at the end of a workday with these gloves. They're great!" At Bond's facility, which manufactures aircraft tire retreads, employees would never switch from the Magid products. "We've experimented with other gloves," he says, "but employees are very happy with Magid's products.

At a large Winery, David Band, safety director, has many uses for Magid's wrist supports and gloves. Band oversees the safety needs of workers at all of the Winery's locations, including the company's three wine processing facilities. "The work that our bottlers do requires a good deal of repetitive hand motion," adds Band. "The wrist supports are very helpful to them. In addition, our office workers who do a lot of data entry have found that the Magid supports help keep their wrists more comfortable. The maintenance and cellar workers use a variety of leather, neoprene and PVC gloves as well."

Back Supports Reinforce Safe Lifting Techniques
Workers who do a considerable amount of lifting have a potential for back injury, a complaint that accounts for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. At the Winery, back supports are used throughout the company's operations, including bottling, cellar & winemaking, housekeeping, quality control, shipping and hospitality, to help workers maintain proper posture and use safe lifting techniques. According to Band, back supports help encourage workers to use the right body mechanics when lifting. But Band cautions that proper training is key to success with back supports-or any ergonomic product. "The purpose of a back support is not to make you lift more, but to remind you to lift properly. You're asking for trouble if you simply give your workers a backbelt and think you've done your job. A critical part of the equation is teaching workers safe lifting techniques. You're just providing band-aids if you don't include training."

Effective Training Is Key
Effective training begins with a solid orientation program. "We do a total of 40 hours of orientation for our workers," says Bond of the tire manufacturer. "It's important to start workers off on the right foot with proper and safe techniques." Band of the Winery agrees. "We make sure that all our new employees are well-versed in safe lifting techniques. We also test their physical strength to make sure that their job activities are matched to their skills."

Another key component of an employee-training program is physical conditioning. "Our employees begin the morning shift with stretching exercises to make sure they're warmed up before they go on duty, " says Band. "We also take time to stretch and warm-up after lunch, since it's an extended break."

All safety professionals agree that each component in an ergonomic program is only one piece of the puzzle. "It's the whole package that makes the difference," says Band. If you provide the right ergonomics products, teach the proper techniques and have your workers take time to do necessary exercises, you are definitely way ahead of any potential problems. But take away any pieces of the puzzle and you're asking for trouble."