Evaluation of ergonomics in a base metal refinery
Melk, Miranda Rechinah
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The aim of the study was to evaluate ergonomics in a Base Metal Refinery (BMR). The hypothesis tested was that the machinery and equipment used and the postures of the workers and the load handled are not in line with good ergonomic standards and practices. Anthropometrical measurements were taken from 111 workers and the loads they handled, their posture while performing the work and the heights of different workstations. Self administered questionnaires were completed by all the workers so as to determine how the feel about their work and an observational data was recorded in order to observe the way the work was performed. Different anthropometrical measurements taken included stature, weight, vertical grip reach, forward grip reach, shoulder grip length, shoulder height/hip height. Different variables including height of the workstation, weight handled, type of work done and frequency of handling were also measured. Evaluation of medical records and incident reports were also carried out to determine whether these records support the hypothesis to be tested or not. Most of the workstations were not ergonomically designed and the work performed in the Base Metal Refinery was done in a standing position and repeated for most of the work shifts. Anthropometrical data was collected so as it can be compared with the type of work performed the duration of the work and whether the workstations were designed to fit the workers. Workers in the BMR were exposed to handling loads which were higher than the NIOSH recommended weight of 23kg, the work was highly repetitive and the workers had to bend awkwardly while performing the work. Therefore this disagrees with the hypothesis which states that the machinery and equipment used and the postures of the workers and the load handled was not in line with good ergonomic standards and practices. This statement was also supported by the incidents reports and the medical records which showed that most workers were booked for a long time due to lower back pain, and more incidents occurred due to handling loads. In BMR most incidents, injuries and illnesses were common amongst cell workers than any occupation within the industry. High incidents and absenteeism due to lower back related illnesses can be directly associated to the type of work performed and the amount of load handled. Most of the workstations were either too high or too low therefore forcing the workers to bend at the waist or his neck so as to properly observe the task, and this proves that BMR was not designed to fit the workers, the way the work was performed, the posture of the worker, the repetitive nature of the work and the weight handled were exceeding the ergonomic standards and practices.
- Health Sciences