Ergonomics: Many hands make light work and safe workers

Ergonomics program assembles teams to tackle high-risk jobs, cutting claims in half.

By ·

Ceradyne, a manufacturer of advanced technical ceramics, wanted to improve working conditions for its employees. With the help of a workplace ergonomics consulting firm (Humantech, the company was able to obtain management approval, train its employees in how to conduct risk assessments and downgrade high-risk jobs to low- or no-risk jobs. As a result, workers’ compensation costs have been reduced by 98% since 2010.

Prior to 2010, Ceradyne had spent millions of dollars addressing ergonomics injuries. “Our main issue was that we did not have a plan, structure, or approach for conducting ergonomics risk assessments,” says Tony Ewing, EHS director of the North American division. 

Obtaining management approval to implement a program at all 12 North American sites was the first hurdle. After Ewing built the cost-justification case, he worked with the supplier to develop a strategy and a detailed plan.

The program was initially rolled out at the company’s larger plants. Each plant assembled a team of 10 to 12 employees, supervisors and maintenance leads. “I wanted to get employees involved, get them doing risk assessments, and give them the tools they needed to fix their jobs,” says Ewing.

The supplier trained the entire team over the course of a week. After being trained to identify risk postures, the teams noticed that some work tables were too high. A series of platforms raised workers to a more comfortable height, improving ergonomics and product quality. Workers had also been retrieving materials from the floor before lift and tilt tables were installed to reduce bending and twisting motions. Among the most strenuous tasks was the process of scooping material in 50- to 60-pound buckets, then manually carrying two at a time through tight corners of the facility before lifting and dumping them into a hopper.

“There were lots of opportunities for scrapes and strains,” said Ewing, who described the scissor lift-equipped carts that now transport the buckets. “One of the team members recommended a tipping device that empties buckets into the hopper, and it’s made a huge difference.”

Since 2010, Ceradyne’s recordable injuries have been reduced by 43%, white workers’ compensation claims and costs have dropped 51% and 98%, respectively. Ceradyne plans to roll out the program across all 12 of its North American plants.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Hydrogen, the Future of Materials Handling
Large, successful organizations are integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology into their lift truck fleets and benefiting from lower operational costs, reduced emissions and improved reliability.
Download Today!
From the October 2016 Issue
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order fulfillment process and increased throughput with near 100% accuracy.
System Report: Brownells new DC is flexible and responsive
Pallet Usage Report: Pallets Remain Critical in the Modern-Day Warehouse
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Pallets: Supporting Product, Processes and the Enterprise
The smallest leak in performance or cost can bring a lean, nimble and speedy supply chain to a halt. During this 30-minute webcast we'll examine how Modern's readers use pallets to keep the wheels turning as they maneuver a road filled with sharp edges and potholes.
Register Today!
Brownells: Designing for Efficiency and Growth
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order...
Industry celebrates National Manufacturing Day
Fourth annual Manufacturing Day is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve the public...

American Eagle Outfitters’ omni-channel journey
The fashion retailer has used warehouse execution software and automation to create a true...
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...