How A Wheelchair Push Study Helps You Avoid Back Injuries In Your Manufacturing Facility
The study was conducted on 62 volunteers (half men and women), who were on average 25 years old. The SRI used their facilities and technology to measure the force on the discs of the spine of these participants. As the participants pushed a simulated wheelchair, the weight resistance was increased or decreased.
The results of this particular experiment and study were revealing. Participants regularly exceeded recommended limits by 17 to 18 percent, based off of the pressure put on the spine. In addition to this, the study found that the motion of turning increased force on the spine by around 40 percent because the core had to stabilize the body to a greater degree.
From this study, we learn that because there is no particular objective ergonomic standard, people normally use how the back feels as the gauge of overexertion. Because of the nature of the spine and its lack of nerve endings in major parts, “feel” is a subjective and ultimately poor injury indicator or guideline to even prevent injury. For this reason, we know that many people in patient handling are injuring their backs without realizing it. In fact, patient handling is now one of the most dangerous jobs for back injury.
These findings can be applied to the material-handling industry as well. In fact, two points of the study are particularly important. First, the heaviest weight that participants reached was 485 pounds. We can see that the weight demands of a typical material-handling environment are much higher than this, and therefore, the practitioner must be that much more careful. The equipment must be able to handle these higher weights to avoid injury, particularly during the important turning and start-up points of the movement.
Second, altering wheelchair design and features to accommodate heavier weights was a primary suggestion in this article as well. The same logic applies to any industry where pushing is a major activity, such as in material handling and manufacturing in general. Just as it is for wheelchair designers and users, altering the device used for weight transfer in material handling should also be a primary concern to avoid injury.
As a company that is concerned with the welfare of our clients, Caster Connection has made it a priority to establish the gold standard for push/pull guidelines by teaming up with the SRI via the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC Ohio State University’s MSD Prevention Site). These new ergonomic guidelines will continue to shape our product development for our clients and are currently allowing us to recommend the optimal solution for our clients so that they can remain productive and, most importantly, injury free. Stay tuned for more updates and the results of our collaboration, which we will reveal late 2019.
Are there ergonomic trends that you’re missing? Take advantage of our 30 years of ergonomic experience and see how we’re implementing the latest research into our clients’ facilities.