From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Manufacturing Industrial Equipment


Jegerlehner, James L., 1995, John Deere Dubuque Works, Workers’ Participation Helps Reduce Cumulative Trauma Disorder Injuries, Advances in Industrial Ergonomics and Safety VII.

Task Prior to Abatement (Description)

John Deere Dubuque Works manufactures industrial equipment. Some of the products include diesel engines, backhoe loader tractors, and crawlers. The company employs over 2600 workers. The company employs an older workforce with an average age of over forty-eight years old. In performing different tasks workers had to manually lift, push, and hold heavy parts, turn the hand feed wheel of a radial drill, bending and extended reaching to grasp the parts, and spend an extended period of time on their knees to attach the shifter linkages inside the operator cab.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Verified Hazard)

A review of OSHA 200 log did not reveal a high incidents of CTDs in this particular area. Further information is not available.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Identified Hazard)

  • Increasing medical cases of cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) injuries in the mid 1980’s.
  • Complaint by the radial drill operator of task difficulty in turning the hand feed wheel of the drill.
  • Complaint of Contact Trauma from holding hand tools.
  • An assembler experienced back pain from spending an extended period of time on his knees to attach the shifter linkage inside the operator cab.
  • Complaint of various cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) injuries from performing manual lifting and pushing of parts, due to heavy weight, bending, and extended reach.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Force)

Heavy components, up to 30 lbs., had to be manually lifted and pushed by operators.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Posture)

Bending and extended reach were required to perform tasks.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Repetition)

There were some repetitive tasks. Moreover, performing one task required spending an extended period of time on operator’s knees.

Ergonomic Solution (Administrative Controls)

  1. A full-time Ergonomics Support Team, composed of three wage employees, was formed.
  2. The support team was replaced by three new workers each year in order to cycle more employees through the ergonomics program.
  3. Workers were encouraged to report any CTD symptoms early to the Occupational Health Department.
  4. The Ergonomics Coordinator, an Industrial Engineer trained in ergonomics, conducted consistent CTD investigations and job analyses of problem jobs.
  5. Continuous ergonomics training for Production Supervisors and Manufacturing Engineers.

Ergonomic Solution (Engineering Controls)

  1. Installing a hand knob on the hand feed wheel of radial drills in order to develop a better mechanical advantage.
  2. Installing handle extentions on levers for other machines in order to give the operators better leverage.
  3. Installing special handling hooks, hoists, and conveyors in order to eliminate manual material handling.
  4. Cutting the wrenches in two and providing larger diameter handles with padded grips on each half to make open-end wrenches more comfortable.
  5. Installing foot rests onto some office chairs to provide more comfortable workstations for some VDT operators.

Ergonomic Solution (Benefits)

  • All workers that perform the tasks now have reduced exposure to all kinds of CTD injuries.
  • Increase in employee communication regarding ideas and suggestions to improve the tasks.
  • Receiving the 1994 Labor-Management Partnership Award from the Dubuque Area Labor-Management Council by Ergonomics Support Team.

Ergonomic Solution (Method Which Verified Effectiveness)

  • Reduction of medical cases of various CTD injuries.
  • Eliminating back injuries (almost).
  • Reduction of repetitive motion injuries by 60 percent.


Successful Pro-active Ergonomics program was an ongoing effort being conducted by employees out on the shop floor and the critical component of it was an active wage employee ergonomics team.