Room 1335, Thornbrough Bldg.
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email: Michele Oliver
From at Guelph, April 11, 2007 - Volume 51, No. 7
Watch a video of our research on the Discovery Channel, Daily Planet web site. The program, Heavy Lifting, aired on September 21, 2004.
Engineers Design Armrest to Relieve Neck Pain
Researchers believe their invention will revolutionize workplaces that use joystick-controlled mobile machinery
BY REBECCA KENDALL
A U of G-developed armrest could be the key to relieving the neck pain that many heavy-machinery operators suffer, says Prof. Michele Oliver, Engineering.
She and master's graduate Taylor Murphy have filed a provisional patent for a newly designed ergonomic armrest that they believe will revolutionize all workplaces that use joystick-controlled mobile machinery.
“The benefits for workers and industry will be huge,” says Oliver, whose research is supported by an Ontario government award for young researchers. “Simple solutions are the most elegant, and this is a solution that will apply to any environment where a worker would operate a control.”
One of the big problems with heavy mobile machines is that the operator's neck gets extremely sore because the armrest that's provided doesn't allow muscles to rest, says Oliver. “It's ergonomically hostile.”
In fact, she and Murphy found that the armrests currently found in heavy equipment are worse for operators than no armrests at all.
Over the course of a 10-hour shift, during which workers can perform 20,000 motions with a joystick, they commonly experience muscle fatigue and discomfort that can set up a cascade of injuries, including repetitive strain injuries. Even minute repetitive muscle activity can cause injury over time if the movement is constant, says Oliver, who notes that the new armrest is designed to reduce the amount of muscle activity in the neck. Employers will be able to easily and inexpensively retrofit their equipment with the new armrests, which could be implemented in hundreds of thousands of work environments as early as 2010, she says.
Besides reducing the possibility of worker injury, employers can expect to save money by paying lower premiums to the Workplace Safety Insurance Board, she adds.