[Upper limb work-related musculoskeletal disorders (UL-WMSDs) in a large factory of the upholstered furniture industry: risk management].Med Lav. 2008 Jul-Aug; 99(4):297-313.ML
The industrial production of upholstered furniture exposes workers to significant risk of occupational disorders due to ergonomics-related problems, such as repetitive strain and movements of the upper limb, manual load lifting, prolonged static postures.
This paper describes the main measures taken by the biggest company in the "sofa sector" in southern Italy in order to solve such problems in the years 1996-2004.
the classic instruments of ergonomics were used such as risk assessment, medical surveillance, training and information programmes, technological reorganization of the manufacturing process and of single working tasks.
The accident rate (number of accidents per million working hours) which showed an increasing trend in the previous years, rose from a value of 31 in 1996 to 51 in the years 1999-2000 (with a percentage of accidents related to load lifting in the range 25-35%). At the same time the incidence rate of work-related upper limb musculoskeletal disorders (UL-WMSDs) in the population of workers (which had increased in the meantime from 2500 to 3500 employees) reached nearly 5% in 2001, with peaks of 8-9% in the work tasks with higher exposure. Accident rates progressively fell in the following three years until a value of 20 was reached in 2004 and 2005, while the mean incidence rate of WMSDs reached a value of nearly 1%. The data need to be compared with the trends in the other companies of the sector in the same period, with an average incidence rate of WMSDs around 2% and a generally increasing trend.
Ergonomic interventions not only concur in the management and control of negative events for workers health but also in achieving advantages in terms of lower costs and greater productivity.