Boeing Frontiers
July 2003
Volume 02, Issue 03
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Integrated Defense Systems

Easier does it

Ergonomics team’s emphasis on safety boosts efficiency


BeforeErgonomics is more than finding the right chair for back support or the right keyboard for the computer. It is part of an overall approach to reduce potential health problems.

During a routine ergonomics evaluation at the Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Developmental Center in Seattle, Ergonomics Lead Majid Assareh saw an opportunity to assist mechanics as they installed the F/A-22 engine bay doors. With clipboard in hand, Assareh began observing, taking notes and sketching out alternative approaches that would make their jobs easier, more comfortable and efficient.

"As ergonomic specialists, we try to make the work station fit the worker, not the other way around," Assareh said. "Our job is to find inexpensive and resourceful solutions to help employees perform better, for the long haul."

When Assareh observed the installation of the F/A-22 engine bay doors, he noted that mechanics had to bend their backs and physically hold the doors as they installed more than 300 fasteners.

"There's got to be a more comfortable method to perform this task," thought Assareh.

After more note taking, discussions with the mechanics and management, drafting of sketches and phone calls, Assareh came up with an ergonomic solution: make a tool to support and hold the doors during installation. A team made the tool from an existing adjustable jack with wheels and padding material and assembled it in just two hours. The mechanics put it to work immediately.

After a trial run, mechanics noticed they had more freedom of movement and the installation was easier to perform. "I was surprised to see how such a simple tool, made from pre-existing materials, could make such a positive impact," said John Gannon, F/A-22 mechanic. "I would never go back to the old way."

AfterThe ergonomics team, which includes Health and Safety Administrators Larry Graves and Tom Gosseen, has an office virtually in the center of the 700,000-square-foot factory. In addition to office ergonomics and the F/A-22 program, the team's customers include the Composites Fabrication and Assembly Center, Sea Launch and Emergent Manufacturing—all located in the same building, within walking distance. "The proximity is great and customers can always stop by and talk to us, and vice versa," Assareh said.

One of the team's major achievements in the factory is that nearly all tool carts, shelving, information boards, tables and chairs are on wheels—including the special jack that Assareh and the mechanics came up with for installation of the F/A-22 engine bay doors. The team believes adjustability and mobility are important aspects of ergonomics, because workspaces should be conducive to employees' work and give them flexibility to work more efficiently.

The team's current project is to establish an ergonomics crib, which will enable employees to learn about ergonomic accessories, tools or personal protective equipment. If employees feel such products are useful, they can borrow them for a limited time before they eventually order them for permanent use. Employees also may go to the crib to receive consultation on a tool or a piece of equipment that might help make their jobs easier.

The ergonomics team often receives compliments for its expertise and assistance from teammates in the factory as they walk by the team's office.

The team's reply is a simple refrain: We're just doing our jobs."


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