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Conveyors - Ergonomics

How are conveyors used in industry?

Conveyors are common equipment found in industry. They are used to move products and supplies in and out of a work site, from one part of the plant to another, and between workstations. In all kinds of assembly operations, ranging from microelectronics to the automotive industry, conveyors, whether powered or unpowered, roller or belt, overhead or floor, are literally the backbone of the production system.

The entire work process revolves around the conveyor. Its height, width, speed and position in relation to the worker modify the overall workload and the way workers do their job. To lessen the likelihood for adverse effects of long hours spent at a conveyor of any type, some ergonomic and design issues have to be considered.

How do we make work at a conveyor safer?

  • Wherever the tasks at the conveyor require wide-ranging bodily motion and/or physical exertion, then the work should be done from a standing position.
  • Conveyor height should be determined by the degree of exertion required and the dimensions of the objects being worked upon. A range of  65 to 120 cm can accommodate the majority of the workforce and a variety of tasks. As most conveyors have a fixed height surface, it is recommended to fix the belt to a height suitable for the tallest workers, and to provide adjustable working platforms or chairs for shorter workers. More information on working in standing positions can be found in our OSH Answers section under:
  • Conveyor height for light work should be about 5 to 10 cm below one's elbow height. Seating is optional.
  • Conveyor height for heavy work should be about 20 to 40 cm below one's elbow height. Seats for other than resting are not recommended.
  • The width of the conveyor should be chosen so that the reaching distance for repetitive movements is within 45 cm (18 in) from the front of the operator’s body.
  • Regardless of whether they work while sitting or standing, workers should have adequate knee and leg clearance.
  • Aisles should be wide enough so that the workers could perform their tasks without obstruction.
  • Small racks or shelves for containers should be within easy reach; containers should be tilted to avoid repetitive awkward movements.
  • Consider installing tool balancers where heavy powered hand tools are used.
  • Consider installing over-conveyors workstations to provide easy access to materials and tools and to free floor space.
  • The pace of a conveyor should be set between the capabilities of the most- and least -skilled worker; the highest speed should not exceed 10 m/min.
  • For assembly work the workers should have some control over the pace of their tasks.
  • Consider installing anti-fatigue matting; it may alleviate tiredness and feet problems might arise from working long hours on hard floors.
  • Even if the work is done from only one side, the conveyors should be accessible from both sides. This is for maintenance, housekeeping, and emergency reasons.
  • Where people need to move over the conveyor, a crossover (pedestrian bridge) should be built, with appropriate guards installed.

Document last updated on February 3, 2014

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