Robotics and automation offer positive benefits to workers, not the least of which is a safer, easier, and more comfortable work environment. Larger companies have a dedicated ergonomics engineer that deal with this subject while smaller ones have the automation or process engineer champion this for the company.
On the factory floor, low-force movements such as twisting, pinching, and flexing performed repeatedly over long periods of time without rest can cause repetitive strain injury (RSI). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RSIs contributed to the 476,700 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses which occurred in manufacturing occupations in 2015.
RSI can affect muscles, tendons, and nerve tissue in the shoulder, forearm, and hand, leading to pain, weakness, numbness, or impairment of motor control. RSI is a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) related to tendinitis and work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMD). Work related injuries affect productivity, cost companies compensation claims and litigation expenses.
Ergonomics and occupational safety engineers try to combat CTD and WRMD with ergonomics, adjusting manufacturing workplace conditions to improve comfort, safety, and efficiency of movement. These fixes typically include tool suspension, lift systems, hand assist tools, and adjustable work table. For work tasks with a high risk of hazard, manufacturers can boost ergonomics to another level by integrating robotics and automation technologies into factory workflows.
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