Fitting mission to individual: WR-ALC Ergo techs, workers adapt mission to fit person, reduce injuries

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

Certified technicians at the Warner Robins Air Logistic Complex Ergonomics Program work with the mindset, “one size, does not fit all.”

WR-ALC Ergonomics Program technicians work hand-in-hand with the complex’s total workforce to reduce risk factors that could result in injuries.

Belinda Brown, WR-ALC Ergonomics Program manager, said her team works hard to position the base’s workforce for success.

“This is the motto that fits what we do every day for the administrative and production employees,” she said. “Ergonomics is about fitting the work to the individual as much as possible while reducing and eliminating the ergonomic risk associated tasks.”

In fiscal year 2019, the ergonomics team completed more than 800 ergonomics assessments, and the team is on track to exceed that. 

Brown said during the last year, her team had accomplished many ergonomic successes in lowering the risk factors contributing to Work-Related Muscular Skeletal Disorders. 

“We have implemented several engineering solutions that have not only reduced WMSD’s risk factors but also saved time and money,” she said. 

The ergonomics team worked with the 561st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to create an adjustable run seat pad to make the unit’s operational check more ergonomically sound. 

Technicians sit on a temporary run seat put in place of the normal ejection seat in the F-15’s cockpit to perform operational checks.

Mike Hayes, a certified ergonomics technician for WR-ALC Ergonomics Program, said the L-shaped pad the team designed, which included extensions attached to the back for height adjustments and lumbar support, gave F-15 technicians a way to make adjustments based on the worker’s size.

Eric Fowler, a certified ergonomics work lead for ALC program, said the F-15 run seat pad, created through a local upholstery shop for about $300, reduces back and neck strain as the technicians perform their operational checks.

Because there’s always room for improvement, the ergo team has produced other successes as well.

“One major project the ergonomics team is working on is introducing and evaluating the exoskeleton technology, specifically for upper body and arm support,” Fowler said. “Currently, they are evaluating the technology within the 573rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron and have several other areas within 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group and the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group to test this new Human Assist Technology.”

The wearable vest that supports the weight of one’s arms extended forward and also when arms are extended overhead, creates a weightless environment, which reduces strains to the arms, shoulders and back, Fowler said.

Recently, the ergonomics team and Airmen from the 5th Combat Communications Group met up on base with AFWERKS, a think-tank group the Air Force works with to seek out new innovations, to get certified on fitting and deploying the of an exoskeleton unit that the ALC Ergonomics team and the 5th MOB are going to be evaluating. 

“The manufacturer came out to demonstrate it to us and the 5th MOB and they certified us to be able to suit people up with these,” Hayes said. “We’re going to see how this will help people.” 

The assessment will help the team determine if the technology would be a good solution for other areas in the WR-ALC, Hayes said.

Another project currently in the works at the WR-ALC is the addition of a pneumatic accessory to the 35-ton jack used to perform the weight and balance measurements on C-130 aircraft.

Three jacks, which are used to get the measurements, are manually operated by six C-130 technicians, requiring an average of 150 strokes per lift.  

“This accessory converts the operation from a manual operation to an air operation,” Hayes said. “This reduces the manpower needed for the whole process, which in turn eliminates the risk for injury to the technicians.”

Fowler said the ergonomics team and people who serve the WR-ALC mission have had a good working relationship for some time.
“People like to see us because they know the ergo program will take their ideas and turn them into a workable solution or process improvement,” he said.

Since 2004, the ergonomics team has been tailoring the mission to fit the WR-ALC workforce’s individual needs, a move that postures people for mission success. 

“Our aim is always to reduce ergonomic risk factors,” Fowler said. “This includes stresses and strains to the body. When we reduce the stresses and strains, that increases people’s morale and production.”