No pain, Air Force gain: Ergo program puts workers in position for better health, mission success Published Sept. 16, 2016 By Holly Logan-Arrington Robins Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex’s Ergonomics Office and the 78th Medical Group’s Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight have the answer to what may be ailing you. Eric Fowler, a WR-ALC Ergonomics Program certified ergonomic technician, said ergonomics is all about having a workspace that fits the worker, eliminating or reducing reaching, bending, and awkward positioning in the process. The right fit of one’s work station is much like the perfect fit of one’s shoe, Cynthia Alligood, a 78th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight industrial hygienist, said. “Having an ergonomically sound work area means your workstation has been fitted to your body, your body dynamics and the tasks you must perform daily,” she said. “When a workplace is ergonomically designed, production is increased, and strain, injury, and illness related to the occupation may be reduced.” Ergonomic success takes a team effort, said Belinda Brown, WR-ALC Ergonomics Program manager. “Ergo involves base management, the Ergo team and workers working together to identify risks and implementing solutions to prevent illnesses and work-related injuries,” she said. Those solutions could involve a monitor riser to raise a computer monitor to the proper height which reduces or eliminates the user bending his or her neck. It could also be an ergonomically adjustable chair for better support and positioning in an office workspace. “A good ergo-chair will have eight to 12 adjustments,” Fowler said. “Most office workers sit for at least six to eight hours per day. We recommend that they stand up and move around every 45 minutes to help with circulation.” Ergonomics play a vital role in the air logistics complex as well. Ergo products like anti-fatigue standing mats reduce the contact stress with standing on hard surfaces, and kneeling mats reduce the contact stress when working inside and outside of aircraft and in a variety of industrial tasks that require kneeling or laying down to reach a specific job, Fowler said. Fowler said one of the most interesting ergo devices he has encountered is the Zero-G Arm. “This arm is an exoskeleton arm that is mounted on a rail or mobile floor mount,” he said. “It holds the weight of the tool the worker is using. This unit helps by eliminating the most common causes of injuries: overexertion and repetitive stress.” Sometimes ergo solutions require thinking outside the box. To remove surface coatings in the abrasive blasting booths in Bldg. 142, workers would usually suit up in heavy coveralls, gloves, respirators, helmets and steel-toed boots. Then, they would manually spray high-pressure blast media delivered through a heavy and cumbersome hose. Workers were exposed to vibration, awkward posture, heavy lifting, and forceful exertion. They were also exposed to dusts, noise, and heat while wearing cumbersome personal protective equipment and gear, Alligood said. A robotic blasting booth in Bldg. 191 automatically performs the task in an enclosed booth while the worker monitors and controls the system from a comfortable control room, eliminating the physical risks through a process improvement, Alligood said. Whether by the use of an ergonomic mechanism or by changing a method, it adds up to taking care of the workforce that takes care of the mission. “Ergonomics assists the workforce in preventing injuries and illnesses by eliminating or reducing worker exposure to work-related musculoskeletal disorder, while increasing production and loss time injuries,” Brown said. “It also adapts the job and workplace to the workers’ capabilities and limitations while reducing future time away from the job.” To request an ergonomic assessment in a WR-ALC work center, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For all other base worksite ergonomic assessment requests, e-mail https://org.eis.afmc.af.mil/sites/78abw/mdg/BIO/Forms01/Forms/AllItems.aspx.