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Changing the height of a conveyor belt cuts sickness absence

Returned empty beer casks were prepared on a conveyor line before washing and re-use. The bung and top cap of each barrel was removed using a chisel. This work required repetitive forceful movements. Some of it was done at awkward heights as the bungs were on the sides of the barrels. Both the staff doing the job had taken sick leave for back and shoulder injuries.

The company decided to take action to reduce the injury rate and to enable the speed of the production line to be increased. Workplace meetings were used to bring engineers and operators together to devise a solution, and an ergonomist was used to get specialist advice.

The conveyor was altered to present the caps and bungs to the workers at a more suitable height. The manual force required for bung removal was also reduced by providing better tools.

Benefits were substantial; sickness absence was reduced, with no lost time due to musculoskeletal disorders or injuries in the year after the intervention.

Updated 2014-04-15