A field study was performed using a new data collection system looking at upper extremity kinetics during two different cutting tasks, wing vs. tender cuts, in three poultry plants. The Ergonomic Work Assessment System (EWAS) was designed to simultaneously record knife forces (Fx, Fy, and Fz), electromyographic (EMG) activity (forearm flexors/extensors), and goniometric data (wrist flexion/extension), all of which may represent risk factors associated with cumulative trauma disorders, specifically carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The objective of this study was to monitor workers in an unencumbered fashion as they performed two different poultry cutting tasks. It was assumed that the variables measured by EWAS would be able to discriminate between the two cuts and quantify possible differences between the two. The results confirmed that EWAS successfully showed significant differences in knife forces between the wing and tender cuts. Knife force differences were also observed between plants for the same cut. Differences in the two cuts were also identified in the EMG and wrist angles. EWAS successfully quantified variables that may represent risk factors associated with CTS in three poultry plants. Knowledge of a better quantitatively described external work environment may enable plants to better design rotation schedules for their deboners.
The authors are with the School of Applied Physiology and the Center for Human Movement Studies at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0356.