- Features | September 17, 2018
Powering Tool Safety
In recent years, the total number and rate of work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) or ergonomic injuries in construction have increased significantly.1 With an increase of 12%, this data highlights the need for both employers and employees to focus more of their attention to ergonomic safety. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, there is a 19% employment increase for electricians projected through 2024. Why is this significant? It equals more than 81,000 new opportunities to improve safety right at the beginning of these apprentices’ careers.
Ergonomic injuries are among the most common and costly type of reoccurring injury, potentially creating lifelong issues for workers. Research suggests shoulder and arm injuries are among the top five body parts affected by work-related MSDs in construction over the last five years of data. These injuries can include carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger tendinitis, rotator cuff tendinitis, lower back injuries, knee bursitis, and elbow epicondylitis.
Understanding the most common injuries is the first step to finding solutions to reduce the risk and improve safety for tool users. The seriousness of the science of ergonomics is showcased when manufacturers bring all that work in-house and have teams of health and safety professionals intimately involved with the tool development process.
For example, Milwaukee Tool has always paid a high level of attention to safety and has continuously found ways to add more detailed objective data to enhance its safety program. As research developed ways to measure factors affecting sprains, strains, and repetitive motion injuries, the company added an ergonomic innovation known as electromyography (EMG). This type of investment works to identify and reduce injuries to help workers retire with the same strength and health as when they started their careers.
The EMG process uses the electrical activity produced by a person’s skeletal muscles to record muscle effort during a tool’s use. With the ability to measure up to 108 unique muscle groups throughout the body, the use of EMG technology to develop tools that reduce muscle effort and fatigue helps workers age and retire with greater strength and health.
The investment in EMG allows Milwaukee® to collect objective ergonomic data that can be used to positively influence product design. As part of the investment in this technology, Milwaukee created a dedicated team of industry leading subject matter experts (SME), including a certified ergonomist, sound and vibration SMEs, and other technicians to focus on tool ergonomics. The result is the ability to acquire large amounts of objective information during tool use. This sets the company apart from the many companies that continue to rely on subjective data to make ergonomic decisions.
Some of the key risk factors teams like this consider are high levels of noise, vibration, and required force. While exposure to these factors aren’t necessarily dangerous in and of itself, exposure to high thresholds of these categories can put contractors at risk for eardrum damage, vibration-induced white fingers, trigger finger tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, to name a few.
Here’s a glimpse at a few of these key risk factors and how proper, objective ergonomic measurement helps to influence the tools put in contractors’ hands:
At Milwaukee®, product sound power tests are conducted in one of the industry’s largest, fully isolated, Hemi-Anechoic Sound Chambers. Once assessed, the team can work to develop tools