6% of men and 21% of women feel burdened by carrying and lifting heavy loads. Not surprisingly, back problems are among the most common work-related complaints (51% of women and 44% of men). At 21.2%, it is even the most common reason for absenteeism from work. With appropriate measures, taking into account ergonomics, these stresses can be reduced and the number of work-related illnesses can be reduced. The basic idea of ergonomics and workplace design is humanity and economy. Humanity, since the work should be designed as humane as possible. Economy, since the implementation of ergonomic findings leads to better work results. Thus one of the basic tasks of ergonomics is to adapt the work to the human being.
Ergonomic workplace design
Different workplace components should be taken into account, which as coordinated systems can improve the conditions at the workplace:
- Work equipment such as machines, tools, hardware and software
- Working environment (lighting, room temperature, hazardous substances, noise level, radiation, vibration, …)
- Workplace/workspace (movement space, gripping space, room dimensions, chairs, tables, …)
- work organisation (working time, quantity, sequence, change of workplace, break regulation, …)
- Work content (variety of requirements, load changes, …)
Humane design of work” – a DIN standard was also drawn up for this purpose. The ergonomics standard DIN EN ISO 6385, which deals with the ergonomic principles and ergonomic design of equipment and machinery, working environments and personal protective equipment. The DIN EN ISO 6385 aims to provide support in the case of operational new or redesigned work systems by providing the necessary basic ergonomic knowledge and ergonomic principles.
Adaptation of work to people
Employees who experience physical wear and tear often cut out of their jobs prematurely. Ergonomic improvements at the workplace counteract this, employees are motivated, absenteeism is reduced and profitability can be increased. Physical workloads can be reduced by adapted handling systems. This has direct positive effects on productivity. Because: healthy and satisfied employees work more efficiently, which ultimately has an effect on profitability. Ergonomics is not “nice to have”, but contributes directly to the well-being of the employees and is an essential safety, quality and productivity factor.
Technologies for ergonomic support
Automation is usually only used for repetitive processes. But how can the employees in the interfaces be relieved of physically strenuous tasks? There are different technologies for lifting and moving, which can be combined with different gripping concepts to form a variety of handling devices. The aim is to use the optimum technology for the respective work process. Optimal means among other things:
The greatest possible relief for the operator
Simple, intuitive use
consideration of the operators, e.g. whether they change frequently
Adaptation to required speed and precision
There are handling aids for different tasks which support the employee in his work in industry and trade and thus preserve the health of the employees.
For example, fast movements at a workstation can be supported with a vacuum lifter. Products are lifted, moved and deposited without the employee having to lift heavy loads. It does not matter which products are involved. Typical containers that are moved and transported by a vacuum lifter are sacks, cartons and drums. We also find containers such as buckets, cartons, boxes, plates and sheets, as well as rolls and coils. With the appropriate load handling device, a stationary vacuum lifter can be optimally adapted to different tasks. It can be used to move and handle goods quickly, safely and ergonomically.
Mobile lifting aid
A mobile lifting aid, on the other hand, is not dependent on location and can be used at different workplaces depending on requirements. Mobile lifting aids are particularly suitable when objects have to be lifted repeatedly and transported over a limited distance from or to different locations. Advantages are the easy handling, the safe pick up and deposit of the goods and the very good manoeuvrability. Lifting aids are universally applicable and are battery operated. Thanks to a wide range of standardised accessories, they provide attractive support for many operations involving lifting and moving.
A lifting trolley is capable of performing a wide range of handling tasks: up/down, gripping/releasing, swivelling, tilting, free programming of different positions and customer-specific pick-up and handling functions.
If sensitive products have to be handled, mounted or joined in a precise position, the use of a balancer is recommended. With a balancer, the products are not guided at an operating device, but directly. Applications are in the fields of handling when joining and assembling components, such as the assembly of machines, apparatus and vehicles, component and subassembly assembly, loading of machine tools as well as assembly aids for motors, gears and couplings and tool changing. Furthermore in many other, mostly precise handling tasks.
In summary, it can be said that the effect of implementing ergonomic processes primarily affects the health of the employee, but also significantly increases the company’s economy. Employees are the capital of every company, they experience appreciation in their work and identify more strongly with their company, they are more motivated and stay healthy. Therefore, it is important: an efficient workplace design not only improves the employee’s performance, but also his or her well-being and the quality of the products and thus the effectiveness and profitability of the company.