Dedication to Ergonomic Best Practices Boosts Employee Morale at General Electric Rail Services, Sayre Railcar Repair Shop

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Dedication to Ergonomic Best Practices Boosts Employee Morale at General Electric Rail Services, Sayre Railcar Repair Shop


Located in north-central Pennsylvania, the General Electric (GE) Sayre Railcar Repair shop is classified as a full-service, railcar repair shop. Originally owned by North American Car, the site was acquired by the General Electric Company as part of an acquisition in 1986. The primary activities that take place on the site include the repairing and servicing all types of railroad cars including tank cars, hopper cars, boxcars, gondolas, flatcars, and others. The repair process covers receiving and inspecting incoming railcars, removing residual commodity, cleaning the interior, performing repairs and/or modifications, removing paint and interior lining (abrasive blasting), installing interior linings, painting, stenciling, and performing outbound inspections. Wrecked and damaged cars are also repaired at the site.

GE Rail Services was first recognized as a Star worksite under OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) - the government's premier safety recognition program - in March 2001. VPP Star status recognizes the outstanding efforts of managers and employees who have achieved exemplary safety and health management systems (SHMS). The site was reapproved three years later in April 2004.

Success Impact
Ergonomic Best Practice: Key Tenet of VPP - Management Commitment and Employee Involvement - Drives GE Rail Services towards Increased Workplace Morale

Over the course of 2008, the GE Rail Services site in Sayre, Pennsylvania, made great strides to complete 16 ergonomic improvements, four of which the site believes stand out:

  1. Employees previously were required to lift 83 pounds of beam and aluminum casting. Lightweight, interior lining lights, weighing 35 pounds, now replace the 83 pounds of steel I-beam and aluminum casting previously used which reduce the number of ergonomic injuries.
  2. Employees had been manually lifting center-plates that could weigh in excess of 120 pounds. Employees now slide the same center-plates onto a waist-high cart, avoiding the need for any manual lifting and resulting in fewer ergonomic injuries.
  3. Employees had been using a lifting sling with a chain weight of 92 pounds. Now, employees use a lightweight lifting sling that weighs only 12 pounds.
  4. Welders had to repeatedly adjust their neck to get their welding helmet in place. Welders are now using auto-darkening welding helmets.

These improvements were made due to the site's robust ergonomics team (made up of 18-20 employee team members), which has been highly involved in determining site needs in relation to best ergonomic practices. The team conducts employee comfort surveys to gauge the quantitative risk associated with job tasks. This process allows all employees to be inherently involved in the changes that occur from ergonomic improvement projects. Furthermore, management's commitment to the work of the ergonomics team is two-fold: management not only fully supports employee team members, but is involved in team projects as well. Overall, the team has been highly effective in taking on new tasks, not only to improve daily working conditions, but also site morale.

Origin: Region III, GE Rail Services, Sayre, PA

Entered VPP: March 2001

Industry and NAICS and SIC Codes: Rail Transportation (NAICS Code 488210, SIC Code 4789)

Employees: 109

Employers: 1

Sources (Date): Mary Wheaton, EHS Manager, GE Rail Services, Sayre, PA (March 2009)

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