October is Global Ergonomics Month and in general, a month that really highlights our Manufacturing Sector. As such, it was the perfect time to connect with others in industry to share experiences and opportunities for improvement all with enhancing existing ergonomics programs in mind.
|When you bring a group of companies together unfamiliar with an industry and often the process, some amazing things can happen! Outside perspectives can render some rather creative ideas and if anything, shed thought on where one might concentrate their continuous improvement initiatives. It works in the reverse as well, forcing us to step into a new environment and subsequently exposing other means in which to solve our own challenges. This was the case at our recent GF2 (Growing Forward 2) Networking Event hosted by John O Foods Inc. in Wheatley.|
The focus was on “Ergonomics” and in true peer networking spirit, participants were invited to share their thoughts, experiences and suggestions in an effort to enhance current initiatives on building a healthy workplace through ergonomic disciplines.
“Simply stated ergonomics is the science of matching the job to the worker and the product to the user.” – CCHOS
There are several reasons why a company might want to build on and enhance their ergonomic programs, not the least of which is to improve the health and safety of those working in our buildings. Some of those general reasons include:
- Overall health and safety improvements (as mentioned above)
- Reduction/mitigation of severity of injuries, lost time and associated costs
- Enhancement of labour productivity and efficiency leading to waste reduction and better quality
- Fostering of a supportive and positive work culture, etc. etc.
The Ministry of Labour reports on their website that musculoskeletal disorders (one of the leading causes of lost time injuries) and the subsequent acute injuries that come from MSD’s can be mitigated by effective ergonomic programs. In 2015, MSD’s represented:
• 34% of all lost time injury claims = more than 345,000 days lost
• 33% of all MSD claims came from the industrial sector
For additional information on Ministry of Labour resources, please visit their website at: https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/topics/pains.php
With the stage set on the overall importance for focusing on our initiatives relating to ergonomics in the workplace, we embraced the opportunity to learn about our Host’s journey in that regard.
|John O Foods Inc. operates a 55,000 sq. ft. frozen warehouse and fishing processing facility in Wheatley, Ontario. Over the last 15 years, they have become one of the best fresh water fish marketers and processors in North America, carrying a full line of both domestic and European Lakefish.|
Our morning began with a very warm welcome by John O Foods Inc. We were provided with a fabulous overview of their company, the industry, products, processes and culture development. We also learned about their vision and values.
There is a deep sense of commitment to the people employed here and an admiration for the great work they do. The Team at John O Foods Inc. believes that their people bring the best advice to the table. And, from a culture development standpoint, they want to find a way to balance engagement and quality of life for their team.
The President of John O Foods Inc., John Omstead, explained how their company is looking to vertically integrate and that they are working hard at finding different sources of fish to provide throughout the year. Keeping employees working 12 months a year in a seasonality industry is very important to John and his team.
Learning about the company, provided participants a good understanding of the environment before our tour began.
When it comes to thinking about Ergonomics and where the best place might be to start, our Health & Safety Group Representative, Laura Rourke, suggested that companies engage their Joint Health & Safety Committees to first look at the following specific areas:
- Heavy, frequent or awkward lifting
- Pushing, pulling or carrying loads
- Working in awkward postures
- Hand intensive work
The risk factor relating to these elements depends on duration, frequency and/or intensity and if there is a combination of these, then the risk factor greatly increases. Examples follow:
- Duration – hours, cumulative totals, etc.
- Frequency – assembly, sorting, loading, etc.
- Intensity – weight, grip and pinch, vibration, force
- Combinations – exposure to more than one risk factor greatly increases the risk of injury (i.e. Bending and twisting while lifting)
A Checklist for thought during tour was provided to participants with the above in mind. It focused on areas around Awkward Posture, High Hand Force, Highly Repetitive Motion, Repeated Impact and combination of these. With a continuous improvement mindset, Participants were then asked to note anything that they saw during the tour that we could discuss in roundtable format after.
Generally speaking, this is a plant that has many ongoing movements – there is lots of activity and like many other companies, everything is happening simultaneously. They are highly automated, and their equipment and practices are adaptable depending on the product and weight (which can vary from 150 g to 7-8 lbs).
|We very carefully spent time reviewing each process, watching people completing the task at hand and asking questions of our Guides around flow and methodologies for product handling. This culminated in admiration for various techniques, equipment modifications and automation development already in place with ergonomics in mind. Observations that could be future improvement ideas for our Host were generated as well. Similarities for others processing products in like and non-like industries were also identified.|
Once the tour was complete, we reconvened at the local Legion to review basic Ergonomic principles, already outlined above, followed by roundtable discussion on opportunities relating to the topic at hand. It was a perfect example of the power of peer support. With a general understanding of the business, processes and challenges faced by our Host, Participants could share their observations and experiences. Further to the questions and ideas generated to enhance their existing ergonomics program, our Host was also able to build a network for future peer support.
Discussion items are summarized below:
Health and Safety and Ergonomics:
- There are always a variety of elements that come into play when trying to implement good practices around health and safety with ergonomics in mind. Observations of bending and lifting and potential repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s) were noted. As a fish processor, it is a wet, slippery environment that can sometimes be cold. With product and processes in mind, one of their most important goals would be avoiding hand injuries (cutting, RSI’s, etc.).
- We discussed the importance of finding the right knives to work with and how to ensure they stay sharp. We also talked about digging deep and getting to the root cause of challenges that surface using the potential issue of a dull knife as an example and someone shared a quote that “Sharp knives do not cut people, dull knives do”. Those looking for a solution to an issue like this would begin by asking “Why is the knife dull?” and then delving down as far as possible into the root cause.
- Our Host also shared the good lessons that can come through exposure to other facilities and methods – i.e. they are currently exploring cut resistant gloves and encouraging testing by team members to see if it is something that can be utilized in their plant.
- We were very impressed with the speed an agility of the hand cutting process and considered the challenges that task presented, particularly around the potential for repetitive strain injuries. We learned about their adjustable tables to mitigate this issue and were also shown their new filleting machine which will help alleviate some of the potential for RSI’s.
- There was general discussion relating to crates and accessibility to equipment and potential ice shovelling opportunities. All with continuous improvement in mind.
- Everyone was extremely impressed with the filleting tables which were all adjustable. The biggest challenge encountered here was encouraging people to use them according to their height.
We also really liked the implementation of wheeled carts to make maneuvering of items easier.
- There was a good deal of discussion surrounding the merits of piece work – pros, cons and drivers (value, quality, efficiency and industry-based needs).
We also talked about the potential to involve people and train on what’s needed for buy-in.
- When it comes to training, the Team here are eager to find the best ways to mitigate any ergonomic issues and want to understand how jobs impact us from that standpoint. They make use of utilizing practice exercises and even take part on the line to experience what the people do and how they do it. They are very interested in finding new techniques that are ergonomically friendly, safe and efficient. Experience on the line can help identify the simplest and/or leanest way to complete a job specific task.
- Another area explored was mat usage. We talked about the challenges of cleaning them, their cumbersomeness and the potential trip hazard. Mats are used in many facilities – is there an opportunity to find something that would work better not only here but for others as well?
- Changing habits and helping people make use of the equipment available (i.e. pallet lifters).
- We learned that water acts as a lubricant for those cutting and lessens injuries. Keeping people warmer also lessens injuries therefore employees are encouraged to layer their clothing and they keep the plant as comfortable as they can consider food safety best practices for their product.
- Everyone really liked the corporate culture development especially the top down buy-in and clear demonstration that the organization truly cares about the well-being of their employees.
- Looking to the future, John O Foods is considering the development of a wellness centre on site.
- From a team building and CI standpoint, when it comes to Quality, H&S, and Productivity they are making concerted efforts to involve the women on the floor more and really want improvement ideas to come from them.
- We also talked about the value of implementing exercise into the work routine to reduce the impact of ergonomic issues specifically with repetitive strain injuries with hands (i.e. finger and hand exercises). One Participant mentioned a visit to Japan and their use of Tai Chi to stretch the body at given intervals.
Additional discussion regarding product and processes on non-related topics included becoming organically certified, dealing with waste such as fish scales and the possibilities for fertilizer or thermal digestion, standardizing procedures and best ways to implement and sustain 5-S initiatives when everyone has a different approach.
After our roundtable feedback, it was mentioned that there was also a number of checklists and overviews relating to Ergonomics that would be shared with participants following the Event. (These are available for anyone interested.)
|With the completion of a very interactive plant tour and input from participants gathered, business cards were exchanged and offers to visit peer facilities made. It was a fabulous continuous improvement experience that the Host, John O Foods Inc. greatly appreciated, and our Community Partners, Chatham-Kent Economic Development, and Members attending found interesting, helpful and informative!|
“Ergonomics Awareness Education for Employees and Supervisors”, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
Very special thanks to our Host, John O Foods Inc., our Community Partners – the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and all of the Manufacturers who joined us for this very special Networking Event!
All the best as always!
Bren de Leeuw, Director - EMC Food, Beverage, Bio & Ag Program Canada
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - email@example.com - 519-372-6009
EMC receives funding under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. However, the comments or opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Canada or the Province of Ontario.