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Poultry Processing Industry eTool

Ergonomics - Contact Stress

Contact stress results from continuous contact or rubbing between hard or sharp objects/surfaces and sensitive body tissue, such as soft tissue of the fingers, palms, thighs and feet. This contact creates localized pressure for a small area of the body, which can inhibit blood, nerve function, or movement of tendons and muscles.

Some of the contact stress problems in poultry processing include:
  • Using manual scissors in cutting and trimming tasks.

    • Each motion to open the jaws of the scissors brings the hard surface of the handle into contact with the unprotected sides of the fingers where nerves are located. Employees do thousands of cuts during the course of a workday.
  • Working on conveyor/assembly lines.

    • Employees' thighs can press or rub against conveyor/assembly lines, especially if tasks require reaching across the conveyor, or if the work area is too small.
  • Standing on steel slat working platforms for long periods of time.

    • In many poultry processing plants employees work on platforms made of narrow steel slats that allow meat and fat to fall through the steel grids. While these platforms help reduce slips and allow for easy clean up, they expose employees to localized pressure in their feet. The slats, which may be no more than 1/4" wide, act like a knife edge, concentrating contact when employees are standing for a long time.

    • Another problem related to standing for long periods of time is the “static load” placed on the legs and back. Circulation is reduced, blood pools, and localized fatigue increases the longer employees must stand. Muscles and tendons become more susceptible to strain as they become fatigued from prolonged standing.
General controls to reduce contact stress:
  • Use electric or power tools, knives and scissors.

  • Use spring-loaded scissors.

  • Attached well-designed handles to tools.

  • Wrap of coat tool handles and grips with cushioning material.

  • Use palm pads.

  • Use sit stand stools to reduce static loading on legs and back.

  • Use shoes with thick or cushioned soles.

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