Musculoskeletal disorders separate perception from reality

There are certain jobs people identify as having characteristics such as toughness, strength and even brute force. Workers in foundries certainly fit this image. These workers engage in important work, producing products that contribute to life as we know it.

foundry, MSD

The perception of tough, burly foundry workers gives way to reveal a need for a solution to musculoskeletal injuries.

The work they do—pouring liquid metal into molds, lifting and moving heavy objects and twisting in awkward positions—frequently serve as a backdrop to advertisements promoting a product’s toughness. That’s the perception. Reality is another story—one filled with pain caused by musculoskeletal disorders.

Pain in the foundry

A 2013 presentation made to the Steel Founders Society of America indicated steel foundry workers sustain 119% more soreness/pain injuries and 45% more back injuries than workers in other foundries do. The overall rate of musculoskeletal injury among all foundry workers, however, is significantly higher than other manufacturing sectors. In other words, tough jobs take a toll on tough workers, unless ergonomic options are available.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looked at the foundry industry and developed a report in conjunction with foundries to reduce the amount of musculoskeletal disorder issues. The report “Solutions for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Foundries,” outlines key areas of concern for the industry. These include repetitive tasks, contact with vibrating surfaces and exerting excessive force.

Ergonomic solutions

OHSA offered several solutions for all of the issues that cause musculoskeletal disorders including excessive push/pull forces.

  1. Powered dollies/tugs – The old methods of moving included, pushing a heavy load on a wheeled device or perhaps using a floor jack, often on uneven or debris-filled aisles. This method creates muscle strain and back problems. Powered dollies and tugs transfers the push/pull force from the worker to the tug, making transport of loads easier, taking less time and improving productivity.
  2. Motorized hand carts – Instead of putting one’s shoulder in and a lot of elbow grease behind moving a heavy rack, OSHA recommends the use of motorized hand carts. These ergonomic aids reduce the amount of manual force required to move material while minimizing back and should injuries.
  3. Motorized lift carts – Moving a load from one line to another on a traditional cart increases push/pull resistance, causing an increased likelihood of musculoskeletal injury. Movements required to load and unload further add to the potential of injury. Motorized lift carts not only reduce push/pull forces needed to transport the load, but also provide better ergonomics for loading/unloading. Hydraulics ensure workers maintain proper lifting motion by adjusting the load as materials are added to or removed from the cart.

As with many recommendations for change in the workplace, there are early adopters and everyone else. Reasons for delaying on implementing ergonomic improvements range from knowledge/understanding to financial. OSHA offers a number of educational, training and program grants to help foundries understand the benefits of ergonomic solutions.

Finally, Electro Kinetic Technologies offers a variety of standard, retrofitted and custom options to reduce musculoskeletal injury in the foundry. Our goal is to reduce incidence of musculoskeletal disorders, so the proud foundry worker can once again stand tall. Learn more about motorized ergonomic solutions by contacting Electro Kinetic Technologies today.

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