The shipyard environment is complex and unique. Workers often perform awkwardly positioned tasks in unique and varying environments and have a history of forming musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Nonadjustable work stations, enclosed or confined spaces, and diverse repair activities can be job requirements which contribute to health and safety risk.
Ergonomics is the study of efficiency in work environments. Shipyards that have systematically addressed ergonomics in the work environment have been effective at reducing injury and reducing MSDs. As a result, many companies have recognized the value of integrating ergonomics into existing safety and health programs. Companies invested in safety policy should take general steps for initiating ergonomical improvements in the work environment, and always remember that each work environment will have different needs and limitations to consider.
Shipyard Work Environments and MSD Injuries
A shipyard is composed of three main work environments. Shop work, with conditions similar to manufacturing and maintenance; and Yard and Vessel work, where tasks include assembly, welding, and repair. Shoulder stress, lower back strains, and symptoms including numbness, pain and swelling can indicate a work environment for which ergonomic improvements can reduce work injuries.
In addition to reduced worker’s comp and lost worker time, ergonomic risk management initiatives can improve morale, reduce absenteeism, and increase production efficiency.
General Steps for Systematic Improvement
Integrating ergonomics into a health and safety plan can follow the following process.
- Providing Management Support
- Involving Employees
- Providing Training
- Identifying Problems
- Implementing Solutions
- Addressing Injury Reports
- Evaluating Progress
These general initiatives can lead to programs and activities across departments to accomplish injury prevention goals.
Equipment Solutions and Guidelines
Ergonomics solutions can be implemented site-wide and evaluated on a task basis for unique work hazards. Consider three equipment options and related ergonomic guidelines.
- Standing Platforms: Provide stability and reduce shoulder and neck fatigue, particularly for overhead work. Ideally workers should operate with hands between waist and shoulder height. Lightweight platforms can be utilized site-wide.
- Racks and Shelves: For staging, moving, storing materials, tools, equipment. Wheeled racks simplify maneuverability. Position between knee and shoulder.
- Tractor Trailers: Reduce trips between work areas for transport handling and time savings. Avoid load shifting or tipping by considering stability and balance.
For details about Systematic Improvement Measures, additional Equipment Solutions and Guidelines, and a complete summary of Shipyard Ergonomics and MSDs, view the Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders report online at OSHA.gov.
Ergonomic Assessment at your Shipyard
OSHA recommends setting up a plan for achieving the cost, efficiency, and morale advantages associated with ergonomics process improvement. In unique and varying shipyard environments, operational or safety teams may need assistance to develop a plan and engineer custom equipment.
Ergonomic improvements have resulted in an 80% accident rate reduction on some shipyards, and are accompanied by operational and morale benefits that can be of great value. OSHA provides free consultation services, and workplace access specialists also assist with recommendations and equipment design. Contact Innovative Access Solutions to get started designing custom access equipment to meet your ergonomic safety program equipment needs.