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Applied Ergonomics

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Ergonomics analysis of line workers in the electric power industry who work overhead on utility poles revealed some tasks for which less than 1% of the general population had sufficient strength to perform. During a 2-year study, a large Midwestern US electric utility provided a university with a team of represented workers and management. They evaluated, recommended, and monitored interventions for 32 common line worker tasks that were rated at medium to high magnitude of risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Two of the recommended ergonomic interventions—the battery-operated press and cutter—were selected by the team as having the greatest potential for reducing risk factors of MSDs. Only overhead distribution line worker tasks were evaluated. A business case was formulated that took into account medical injury and illness statistics, workers’ compensation, replacement worker and retraining costs. An outline of a business case formulation and a sample intervention payback calculation is shown. Based on the business case, the utility committed over $300,000 to purchase battery-operated presses and cutters for their overhead distribution line crews.


Accepted version. Applied Ergonomics, Vol. 34, No. 5 (September 2003): 429-439. DOI. © 2003 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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