Meat cutting is associated with several ergonomic risk factors and a high risk of musculoskeletal disorders. The development of new production systems points to an increased degree of mechanization; instead of subdividing split carcasses of pigs with a knife, the halves are trisected by an electrical saw into 'sixth-parts', resulting in shorter work cycles for the workers. Recently, machine-directed line-production systems have been implemented. This study evaluates differences in the physical workload between the production systems. The postures and movements (inclinometry and goniometry) and muscular load (electromyography) of workers in the split-carcass- (five subjects), sixth-part- (ten) and line-production systems (five) were recorded. Most measures showed a statistically significant trend of declining physical exposure with increasing degrees of mechanization. For example, movement velocities of the upper arm were higher in the split-carcass system (50th percentile: mean 209°/s) than in the sixth-part (103°/s) and line production (81°/s). However, the latter two were not statistically significantly different. A novel method for quantifying posture variation, based on inclinometry, showed that the split-carcass system implied the highest variation of the upper arm postures "within-minute" (i.e., a high range of motion each minute), but the lowest "between-minute" (i.e., a low variation during the course of the workday). In conclusion, the physical workload in the line-production system was significantly lower than in the split-carcass one, and tended also to be lower than in the sixth-part system. However, there may be disadvantages in line production, such as machine-directed work pace and shorter work cycles.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics