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Poultry Processing Industry eTool

Ergonomics - Awkward Postures - Reaching

Elevated and long reaches are a problem in all phases of poultry processing. A number of jobs and tasks require employees to work with their hands above their head or shoulders, their arms extended to arm's length, or their elbows raised out from their body. These kinds of tasks and jobs place stress on the shoulders, elbows and back, and can result in an ergonomic injury.

Elevated reaches — Examples of jobs and tasks that require employees to repeatedly reach or work with their hands above their head or their elbows above their shoulders include:
  • Hanging live birds onto elevated shackle conveyors.

    • Hanging live birds involves lifting birds from about waist height and placing them into shackles on conveyors that are above shoulder height.
  • Rehanging birds onto elevated shackle conveyors.

    • Product is placed on the elevated shackle conveyor at least twice during processing.
  • Reaching inside carcasses on the elevated conveyor to inspect and removing entrails that were missed.

    • Stacking boxed product above shoulder height for shipment.
Extended reaches — Employees also have to perform extended reaches when conveyors are too wide or there is not adequate access to the work area.
  • Most poultry processing conveyors are 18 - 24 inches wide. That means employees must reach their arms forward 20 inches or more to access product that is at the far edge of the conveyor.
  • Long reaches across conveyors can force some employees, particularly shorter employees, to bend their backs to reach the product. Most people must support up to 50% of their total body weight when they bend over 90 degrees.
Extended elbows —Tasks that require employees to work with their elbow(s) away from the body also place stress on the elbow and shoulder.
  • Lifting large or bulky objects often requires employees to hold their elbows away from the body.
  • Providing improper hand tools can force employees to raise their elbows away from the torso in order to prevent wrist deviation.
  • Using in-line knives on horizontal surfaces can force shorter employees to lift their elbows as high as shoulder height in order to keep their wrists straight.
General controls to reduce reaching hazards:
  • Raised working platforms to reduce elevated reaches.
  • Narrower conveyors and cutting surfaces to reduce extended reaches.
  • Ramping conveyor height to reduce extended reaches across conveyors for shorter employees.
  • Bent handled knives that allow cuts to be made with straight wrists and elbows close to the body.

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