From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics- PPG Industries of Pittsburgh

Task Prior to Abatement (Description)

An ergonomic case study for PPG Industries of Pittsburgh. PPG manufactures glass, fiberglass, chemical coatings, and resins with world wide operations. The company has 32,000 employees globally. The number of employees in the U.S. is about 20,000. Workers had to bend over to pick up windshields which had been stacked on floor-level racks. After lifting the 30-pound windshield, they had to twist to place it into a shipping container. The company already tried to reduce back injuries through training, proper lifting techniques and setting up decent work practices, but it was not successful.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Identified Hazard)

Medical incidents of back injuries which ranged between 30 to 40 percent of the company’s disabling injuries and close to the same percentage for medical treatment and/or restrictive activity cases.

14 incidence rate of injuries per 100 full-time workers or per 200,000 work hours in 1987.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Force)

Workers had to lift and carry the 30-35 pound windshields across the course of a work shift.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Posture)

Workers had to bend over to the floor to pick up windshields and twist to place them into a shipping container.

Ergonomic Solution (Administrative Controls)

  1. Hiring a consultant to identify tasks and work areas which resulted in a number of back injuries.
  2. Implementing pilot ergonomics program in company’s several locations.

Ergonomic Solution (Engineering Controls)

  1. Reducing all material handling to less than 50 pounds.
  2. Making a little device in order to roll the glass onto the line instead of lifting it.
  3. Purchasing banding material in 15-pound coils, instead of 105-pound coils in order to reduce heavy lifting.
  4. Purchasing different sizes of gloves, cuffs, and sleeves to reduce additional stress and energy expenditure.
  5. Raising the racks to knuckle height to avoid bending while lifting the windshields.
  6. Altering the racks to allow workers to step into it and load it from back to front in order to eliminate stressful forward reaches.
  7. Purchasing mechanical lift assisting and holding devices in order to eliminate manual lifting, reaching, and twisting.

Ergonomic Solution (Benefits)

  • All workers that perform this task now have reduced exposure to back injury risk factors.
  • Reduction in workers’ compensation costs.

Ergonomic Solution (Method Which Verified Effectiveness)

  • Reduction of injury incidence rate to more than 60 percent.
  • Reduction of injury incidence rate from 14 in 1987 to 3.3 in 1996.
  • Reduction of severity and frequency of injuries.


A key to the PPG success was getting the hourly workers involved and understanding the importance of ergonomics issues and the reasons that company pursues these issues.


CTD News, August 1996, PPG learned to overcome ergo innocence, CTD News.