From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics- Parachute Packing Shop


CTD News, January 1996, vol. 5, No. 1, Holloman’s effort defies expectations, Air Force Best Practices, CTD News.

Task Prior to Abatement (Description)

Employees had to replace the chutes which could be up to 120 feet in diameter and weigh over 150 pounds. Parachutes were either for personnel, aircraft braking systems or heavy equipment.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Verified Hazard)

Citation under the general duty clause by OSHA for a variety of ergonomic hazards.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Identified Hazard)

The ergonomic-related medical incidence rate (15 people with confirmed CTD cases out of 25 employees) over a four-year period (1990-1993).

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Force)

Employees had to repack the chutes, which could weigh over 150 pounds.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Posture)

Employees were conducting the task with awkward postures and forceful body positioning because of inadequate lighting and poorly designed workstations, affecting the back and arms.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Repetition)

Employees with steel bats weighing over 20 pounds must repeatedly pound the folded chute into its container.

Ergonomic Solution (Administrative Controls)

Active-duty military personnel are mandated and civilians are invited to attend in an exercise program as part of their duty day.

Annual medical examination of workers by physical therapist in order to modify the job and worker’s strength.

Ergonomic Solution (Engineering Controls)

Spring-loaded scissors were used instead of traditional ones to reduce some repetitive motion.

Electric scissors were purchased to reduce repetitions.
Sewing tables and their edges were padded.

Adjustable arm desk lamps were used to provide task lighting.

Work tables were raised to accommodate taller employees and plastic stair-step platforms were used to fit the shorter employees.

Storage space was moved to separate shelves instead of underneath worktables to eliminate bending and lifting.

Packing operations were relocated closer to the chute storage to reduce lifting and hauling.

Electric lift tables with wheels were used to move the parachutes in order to eliminate lifting and carrying.

Electric hoists were used instead of hand-over-hand pulley operation to hang wet parachutes in a drying tower.

Additional parachutes were purchased to buffer the need to
repack the parachutes during surge flying operations.

Employees pack no more than 20 chutes per week.

Ergonomic Solution (Benefits)

All workers that perform this task now have reduced exposure to CTDs risk factors.

The base has been acknowledged by a series of certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor for valuable efforts in the promotion of occupational safety and health programs in the field of ergonomics.

Ergonomic Solution (Cost)

The changes in parachute shop cost about $25,000.

The base spent about $50,000 to implement its program over three years.

Ergonomic Solution (Method Which Verified Effectiveness)

The CTD exposure had been dramatically reduced at the base.


Efforts to reduce the pounding operation by mechanization have failed because of damage to the parachute material or failure to pack properly, but the idea hasn’t been given up.