Designing support systems for ergonomic risk assessment in workplace
AbstractThis article presents a software suite for the assessment of ergonomic risks in work environment, resulting from the research cooperation between the CONTARP Campania regional office of the Italian workers compensation authority and the Laboratory of Applied and Experimental Ergonomics of University of Naples Federico II. Ergonomic Implementation Process and IntegrARE Integrated assessment of Risks with Ergonomics are two research projects on safety assessment, respectively, in whitegoods and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, aimed at understanding physical, cognitive and organizational variables in work environment that affect the level of ergonomic conditions in which work activities are carried out. The research background shows a gap between safety assessment approaches supported by national regulations and knowledge advancements and the poor consideration of ergonomic variables in practical assessment methods that are available to safety professionals. Therefore, the main scope of the presented researches was to build and release some free practical tools for a comprehensive consideration of ergonomic risks in a work environment generalizing the results from case studies, based on task analysis. Once completed the task analysis for the two cases study, a comprehensive check list, organized in 9 sections and 135 items, has been released as standardized tool for the detection of work environment factors determining ergonomic risks for operators, considered as alone or combined in their whole,. Then, this system of indicators and rules has been turned into the conceptual model of two software tools: ERA Ergonomic Risk Assessment, for whitegoods industry, and ERAph, addressed to pharmaceutical work environments. The ERA suite formulates the assessment of ergonomic conditions at the scale of the whole task as well as the single detailed actions investigated by the task analysis. The ERA package consist of 5 modules: 1) general description of work environment and production lines; 2) two stages task analysis, with an initial task breaking down and a second stage of detailed description of each simpler action; 3) data processing, according the rules established for each production environment, 4) application of standardized methods for biomechanical risk assessment (namely NIOSH Lifting equation, OCRA Check-list, RULA, Liberty Mutual Tables for pushing and pulling tasks, HAL Hand Activity Level TLV), if requested from the previous module; 5) summarized and analytical displaying of risk assessment results, presented as rating of compliance of the work environment and activities to the checklist ergonomic markers; this module includes the prompt for further data analysis for what concerns risk related to dangerous substances.
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