Innovation and employee injury risk in automotive disassembly operations

W. Patrick Neumann*, Jørgen Winkel, Gunnar Palmerud, Mikael Forsman

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Engineering innovations in car disassembly systems are studied for affects on system operators’ risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI). Objective instrumented measures of injury risk factors with synchronised video-based task analyses were used to examine changes in operators’ RSI risk during two cases of engineering innovation: (1) a shift in industrial model from traditional extracting saleable parts to line-based full material recovery, and (2) the prospective effects of a simulated ‘Lean’-inspired process improvement in the line system. Both cases of innovation showed significantly increased movement speeds and reduced muscular recovery opportunities, implying increased RSI risk. This case study reveals a mechanism by which innovation may increase RSI risks for operators. Managers responsible for engineering innovation should ensure their teams have the tools and mandate necessary to control injury hazards as part of the development and design process. These cases suggest how failure to manage RSI hazards in the innovation process may allow increases of injury risks that can compromise operational performance. This ‘innovation pitfall’ has implications for operator health and organisational sustainability. Alternative pathways are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)3188-3203
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Back-track factory
    • Corporate social sustainability
    • Engineering design
    • Ergonomics
    • Human factors
    • Manufacturing
    • Physical workload
    • Rationalisation

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