From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Deere and Company


CTD News, August 1995, An Ergo Process That Runs Like a Deere, CTD News.

Task Prior to Abatement (Description)

Deere and Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of farm equipment. In the machinery construction department workers performed various manual material handling tasks involving heavy objects up to 75 pounds. Back-hoe line assemblers had to spend a lot of time on their knees and bent over while connecting various parts. Performing the task also required extensive and repetitive use of a hand wrench which involved awkward wrist postures. At another assembly workstation, two employees had to manually lift a 100 pound lawn mower deck and attach it underneath the lawn tractor. The operators knelt, while holding the deck against the tractor bottom with one hand and fastening it with the other.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Verified Hazard)

OSHA 200 forms, medical and first-aid logs verified that tasks are hazardous.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Identified Hazard)

  • Increasing lost time back injury cases up to 31 percent of the total injuries in 1979 and workers’ compensation costs of back injuries escalating 15 percent annually.
  • Twelve first-aid cases of injuries in one year.
  • Twelve OSHA recordable cases in one year. Four of them were sprains and strains, mainly back injuries.
  • An assembler suffered back problems aggravated by the amount of time he spent in awkward positions.
  • Increasing over-exertion back strains and sprains up to 28 percent of the company’s lost-time injuries by 1984.
  • 70 percent increase in workers’ compensation costs for over-exertion back strains and sprains since 1978.
  • Employee complaints, symptom surveys, walk-through checklists and workers compensation cases.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Force)

Lifting and carrying objects of up to 75 pounds was required to perform the tasks.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Posture)

Awkward bending, kneeling and wrist postures were required to perform the tasks.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Repetition)

High repetitive use of a hand wrench involving awkward wrist postures was required to perform tasks.

Ergonomic Solution (Administrative Controls)

  1. As an initial informal ergonomics program, the company used the NIOSH lifting equation.
  2. Initiating an eight-hour engineer ergonomics training program.
  3. Appointing ergonomics coordinators in all U.S. and Canadian factories, foundries and distribution centers chosen from the industrial engineering and safety departments.
  4. Training through attending professional courses and conferences, memberships in professional organizations, subscriptions to ergonomics publications and tracking the latest ergonomics research.
  5. Employing a full-time Ergonomist in Product Design Department.
  6. Ergonomic review of new office furniture purchases.
  7. VDT ergonomics awareness training for video display operators.

Ergonomic Solution (Engineering Controls)

  1. Limiting manual lifting to 40 pounds or less.
  2. Redesigning the assembling operations so that assemblers worked in an upright position.
  3. Padding and changing hand-tools to better fit the workers’ needs.
  4. Installing a part manipulator machine at the start of the assembly line.
  5. Installing a hoist next to the assembly line to lift the mower decks.
  6. Installing a new lift table.

Ergonomic Solution (Benefits)

  • All workers that perform the tasks now have reduced exposure to back injury risk factors.
  • Substantial increase in productivity.
  • Decreasing time to perform the tasks.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • Reduction in workers’ compensation costs.
  • Increased worker efficiency.
  • Increased product quality.
  • Increased safety.

Ergonomic Solution (Cost)

Information not available ( the company does not track costs for its ergonomics process ).

Ergonomic Solution (Method Which Verified Effectiveness)

  • 83 percent reduction of back injuries that resulted in lost time.
  • Reduction of workers’ compensation costs for back injuries by 32 percent in the last 10 years.


The key to the success for Deere and Company in reducing the incidence of back injuries was largely due to the contributions of its employees in the ergonomics process.