(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
Polaroid Corporation - Waltham, MA
In 1992, Polaroid Corporation developed an ergonomic program and supporting guidelines to promote continuous health and safety performance improvements while maintaining product quality and sustaining profitability. Polaroid tests the effectiveness of its ergonomic improvements by incorporating a mission; policies; guidelines; job analysis evaluations; redesign methodology; in-house expertise training; and pilot programs.
To gain employee confidence in the ergonomic concept, Polaroid began its program on a volunteer basis. In addition, Polaroid built management commitment by establishing a clear set of expectations, potential results, and benefits. However, acceptance of the program did not go unchallenged for various reasons: expected increases in injury and illness statistics due to increased reporting; costs versus benefits concerns; and ergonomics being portrayed as more than mere common sense. Eventually, the program evolved from a volunteer concept through six phases into an auditable requirement in 1997. The program's next challenge involved educating the employees about their risks for work-related cumulative trauma disorders, encouraging them to report these illnesses, and identifying ways to reduce or prevent risk factors in the workplace. To successfully implement its program, guidelines, and methods, Polaroid relied on total quality ownership as a key tool to modify its employees' attitude and thinking toward ergonomics.
Training, such as task analysis and evaluation, was a significant factor in the success of Polaroid's ergonomic program and allowed the program to be applicable at the corporate level. To date, employee-owners from several professional disciplines have been trained and are conducting analysis and evaluation training themselves, as well as training additional instructors. This approach enables a wider dissemination of required skills for conducting task evaluation and redesign, thereby improving the health, safety, and quality of the workplace.
Another important feature of the ergonomic program has been Polaroid's method of investigating and categorizing occupational injuries and illnesses by type and cause. These categories serve as a framework which are applied to all accidents. The reframing of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics helps Polaroid understand and address the underlying causes and consequences of workplace accidents. In addition, management receives the information needed to take preventive measures in the areas of greatest or immediate need.
Polaroid's study, "Ergonomic Evaluation and Analysis of a
Film Processing Task", demonstrated the task evaluation analysis and redesign
methodology aspect of the ergonomic program. This study employed quantitative
analyses on the film processing task by using frame-by-frame, detailed
analysis of the task's steps, and then evaluated the results against
established criteria to design, implement, and validate cost-effective
solutions. Through this study, Polaroid demonstrated how its ergonomic
analysis would significantly reduce or eliminate almost all of the extreme
body positions and potentially-damaging wrist motions associated with the film
processing task. These improvements were, in fact, confirmed by film
processing operators. Table 3-2 identifies the risk factors, associated causes, and actual solutions which resulted from this study.
|Potentially Damaging Wrist Motions
L/R Point Of Operation (P.O.O.)
close to body (load/unload
L Manual positioning/fixing
|Holding device for
Holding device for cameras.
|Extreme Wrist Positions
||L P.O.O. too far away and angled
far away from body (film
too far away and angled too
from body (film tray
R P.O.O. too low and angled too
from body (light box).
|Angled fixture for
trays and moved closer to
Angled fixture for
trays and moved closer to
overhead (also eliminated
|Shoulder Flexion (extreme)
P.O.O. too far away from body
P.O.O. too close and angled too far
body (pulling tab empty
|Holding device for cameras.
P.O.O. too far to one side/ need both
hold/ place 5 processed
R P.O.O. too far to on side
pack places on table).
closer to operator.
Positioned new angled
closer to operator
||R P.O.O. too far away and angled
far away from body (processed
|Angled tray towards body.|
||L P.O.O. too far away from body
|Cameras installed in holding|
device which eliminated this
does not provide proper adjustments
and support which leads to a
compensating postures to accomdate
the seating. It
also does not allow the
operators to vary static posture during
day in order to eleviate muscle stress and
Individual posture habits.
|Provided new adjustable|
chair with usable arm
|Mechanical Stress of the
|R/L Resting forearms on the edge of
|Adjustable, padded armrests.|
Another successful implementation of ergonomics occurred at Polaroid's Vale Camera Division in Scotland. A team of employees in the Medical Management program worked together to develop a procedure for identifying and reporting cumulative trauma disorder (CTD)/repetitive strain injury (RSI) at work. After pilot-testing and adjusting the process, Polaroid implemented the procedure. Although Polaroid does not claim to have solved all of the problems associated with CTD/RSI, the procedure did demonstrate how to understand, address, and identify solutions for avoiding or mitigating CTD/RSI disorders.
Polaroid uses its ergonomic program to improve the way employees relate physically and mentally to the workplace. By describing processes, implementing procedures, and examining statistics, Polaroid has achieved positive results from its program.