April 1, 2007 Human factors engineers say many household injuries can be avoided by following a few simple protective steps. They are also making tools safer to help reduce accidents, re-designing protective gear -- such as ear plugs and respirators -- and finding better ways to handle pre-fabricated walls.
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Many homeowners want to bang it, saw it, and take on home improvement projects themselves. But homeowners doing speedy repairs or hurried remodel jobs on their own need to be aware of the dangers of weekend warrior projects. Yvan Beliveau is making sure his latest job is done right. "I want to get it done in a particular way," he says.
Many picky do-it-yourselfers want it done right and done fast. But finishing up a project too quickly can cause serious accidents. The most common injuries are caused by ladders, cuts from saws, and screw driver and hammer mishaps. But human factors engineers say many injuries can be avoided by following a few simple steps.
"If it's a windy day, maybe it's not the best time to put up a ladder," Brian Kleiner, an ergonomist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Va., tells DBIS. He says to also read warning labels, wear safety glasses, use the correct equipment and -- if it's a difficult job -- call a professional.
Human factors engineers and researchers like Kleiner are also working on making tools safer to help reduce accidents, re-designing protective gear -- such as ear plugs and respirators -- and finding better ways to handle pre-fabricated walls.
"We can either change the system or we can change the person,". Kleiner says. "We change the person through training, and we change the system in terms of tool design." So far, Beliveau's project has been accident-free, and he's looking forward to a finished product. "At the end of the day some very significant piece is complete, and it's a great reward."
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: Brian Kleiner of Virginia Tech works with constructions crews in the television industry, which requires rapid building projects. The science of ergonomics can help reduce the risk of injury on a construction: a back or neck injury sustained while lifting heavy objects, or repetitive stress injuries, the most common of which is carpal tunnel syndrome.
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS? This is a branch of science that strives to design the job to fit the worker, rather than the other way around. In the modern office, it most commonly relates to the physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, even hearing and eyesight, along with other environmental factors that can adversely affect comfort and health. Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technology and work environments with the human body, and involves such things as anatomy, physiology, and psychology in the design of chairs, desks, computer accessories, the design of car controls and instruments ý in short, any kind of product that could help relieve potential repetitive strain from a given job or task.
OY! MY ACHING BACK: The back is made up of four major parts. The spine, nerves, muscles, and the spinal cord. There are thirty-three bones in the spine and thirty-one pairs of nerves branching out from the spinal cord. All of them must work together. If they don't, you could end up with anything from a strain to a ruptured disk, fractured vertebrae, and/or a debilitating disease like arthritis. Back injuries can be painful, disabling, paralyzing, and sometimes even fatal. To help prevent a back injury you should exercise, practice good posture, eat the right foods, and watch your weight. Check with your doctor for muscle strengthening exercises for the back. Other things you can do to prevent back injuries include using work-saving devices -- hand trucks, forklifts, wheelbarrows, and dollies can assist you. When you have an object to lift that is too heavy or bulky get help! Ask a co-worker for their assistance. Remember, two backs are stronger than one.' Check out the object to be lifted. Think about how you are going to grasp the load and make sure there is a clear path of travel so you won't stumble. Before you lift, stand close to the object, bend down at the knees and straddle it, get a good grip, and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight. The secret is to let your legs do the work. Remember: It doesn't have to be a heavy load -- even a small, very light object lifted incorrectly can trigger a back injury.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS: Inspect electrical and hand tools before use.
When it's heavy get some help. Don't be a hurt hero.
Never smoke around flammables.
Watch out for pinch points and sharp edges. Keep your work area neat and clean.
Avoid horseplay -- someone always gets hurt.
Wear personal protective gear properly and whenever required.
Check the label and read the manufacturer's instructions before use.
Ask questions whenever you're in doubt.