1st Place:

City of Green Bay Outfitting Utility Vehicles with Electric Valve Operating Equipment

The problem:

The Green Bay Water Utility maintains over 500 miles of water main and approximately 10,000 water main and hydrant branch valves. A critical part of maintaining the system is to operate all valves biannually in addition to operating approximately 1,700 valves over a course of six months during their annual unidirectional flushing program. Although mechanical valve turning equipment exists, it is cumbersome and not very time efficient, therefore, the majority of these valves are turned manually. This manual activity puts tremendous strain on the shoulders, arms and upper torso. In the last seven years, the utility has reached over $50,000 in claims due to strains and sprains, which they suspect is a direct result of manual valve turning.

The solution:

The team purchased a Wachs portable valve operator with turning equipment, then outfitted a utility vehicle to accommodate the electrical need without having to haul a small generator and fuel to power it. First, they installed a power inverter that receives its power from the truck battery, deep cycle battery and alternator. Wiring was then installed from the inverter to a retractable cord reel designed for outdoor electrical use, which was strategically mounted near the back of the truck. The valve turner is plugged into the retractable cord and is ready for use. Total install time for one truck was 10 hours and is easily repeated to outfit the entire fleet. By reducing the number of valves operated manually, they should expect to see a reduction in claims for sprains and strains, among others. In addition, eliminating just one injury would pay for this small investment several times over.


2nd Place:

Public Employers Risk Management Association, Inc. (PERMA) Using Wearable Sensor Data to Reengineer Common Job Movements

The problem:

PERMA is a non-profit association devoted to providing workers’ compensation protection and risk management services to public employers throughout New York state. Many of the job duties within public works are physically demanding and put harmful strain on the body. Within the public works risk group, strain injuries are the highest in both frequency and severity. In the five-year period analyzed, strain claims represented 43% of indemnity claims in total cost and 47% in count. An average lost time strain claim costs over $44,000 per claim and averages just over $5 million annually.

The solution:

PERMA established a data-driven method to identify common strains and muscle injuries then, using that data, re-engineer high-risk postures within daily job functions. dorsaVi is wearable sensor technology that measures human movement and muscle activity, providing objective data on unsafe movements. PERMA plans use this data to create corrective movement protocols in addition to sharing the analysis with similar pool members. Data collection and workshops will be performed with the assistance of an Ergonomist, Member Administration and front-line workers to re-engineer job tasks together. Findings and best practices will be produced, disseminated and taught through training. dorsaVi is reporting up to 74% reduction in claims, which PERMA conservatively estimates would result in approximately $500,000 in strain claims cost reduction.


3rd Place:

Capital Region Educational Service District 113 Workers’ Compensation Trust (ESD 113) Outfitting School Cafeteria Tables with Lift System

The problem:

In some cases, school district employees are required to set up and take down cafeteria tables up to four times daily. Lifting the older tables can require in excess of 81.5 pounds of arm, shoulder and back pulling strength and many schools have 40-60 tables. This is well above the 50-70 pound lifting limits recommended by occupational safety and health organizations. Field observations confirm an average of 250 repetitive set up and take down of tables per workday for the average custodian. The tables place employees in an awkward angle and require repetitive force, which impacts the wrist, arm, shoulder, back and neck. This places employees at an ergonomic disadvantage and injury risk.

The solution:

The school district will replace outdated tables with BioFit Tables, engineered to significantly reduce and/or eliminate risk of injury to the custodial staff. Field tests show that these tables are designed to require a peak lift measurement of 37.5 pounds, which is 50 pounds less than the weight to set up and take down current tables, and well below the 50-70 pound lifting limits recommended by occupational safety and health organizations. In some circumstances, when replacing tables is not economically feasible, ESD 113 plans on implementing the LiftMate Lightweight Lifters with existing tables.