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Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 219228

A corporate workplace model for ergonomic assessments and improvements

Linda To rnstro ma,, Joakim Amprazisb, Marita Christmanssonc, Jo rgen Eklunda

Division of Industrial Ergonomics, Linko ping University, SE-581 83 Linko ping, Sweden b Volvo Car Corporation, SE-40531 Go teborg, Sweden c National Institute for Working Life, SE-40272 Go teborg, Sweden Received 7 July 2006; accepted 1 May 2007

Abstract Several companies have developed their own company-specic models for ergonomic improvements. This study aims to describe and identify factors supporting and hindering the implementation and application of one such corporate model for ergonomic assessment and improvement. The model has been developed by Volvo Car Corporation and implemented at an assembly plant in Go teborg, Sweden. The model is unique as it is intended to be used by production engineers and safety representatives in cooperation. The process for assessment of musculoskeletal risks is standardised and participatory, which also supports identication of solutions. Interviews, questionnaires, observation and document studies were used to evaluate the use of the model. The model was found to improve participation and collaboration among stakeholders; provide a more effective ergonomic improvement process; visually represent the ergonomics situation in the company; and give legitimacy to and awareness of ergonomics. However, the model was found to be rather resource demanding and dependent on support from management and unions. In particular, a substantial training programme and regular use of the model are needed. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Musculoskeletal risks; Work design; Participation

1. Introduction 1.1. Background Industrial companies face new challenges due to increasing international competition, e.g. higher productivity, new product design and shorter lead times. At the same time, ergonomic considerations in the design of work and workplaces may support productivity and quality, promote the health of the employees and also attract new employees (Axelsson, 2000). Management often focuses on productivity, quality and economic prots, while workenvironment issues sometimes tend to be neglected. A commonly used management tool today is visualisation of key gures concerning performance of productivity,
Corresponding author.

E-mail addresses:, (L. To rnstro m). 0003-6870/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2007.05.006

quality and cost, and such graphs are displayed on the shop oor (Greif, 1992). However, visualisation of the ergonomic status of workplaces is neither common nor readily available. This is in contrast to several studies showing the relation between ergonomics, quality and productivity (Eklund, 1995, 1997, 2000; Axelsson, 2000). The quality movement emphasises process orientation and standardisation as cornerstones (Bergman and Klefsjo , 2001). Similarly, ergonomic assessments are increasingly performed as standardised processes, e.g. the NIOSH Work Practice Guide for Manual Lifting (Waters et al., 1993). Continuous Improvement (CI) is a concept mainly associated with the Total Quality Management (TQM) philosophy and with Japanese production systems, Kaizen in particular (Imai, 1986). The TQM philosophy advocates dual functions of work, both standard work and improvement work (Shiba et al., 1993). TQM is a mixture of normative assumptions, concepts, techniques and models,

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including CI (see e.g. Deming, 1986; Hackman and Wageman, 1995; Glover, 2000; Bergman and Klefsjo , 2001). From an organisational design perspective CI has been dened as a purposeful and explicit set of principles, mechanisms, and activities within an organisation adopted to generate ongoing, systematic and cumulative improvement in deliverables, operating procedures and systems (Lillrank et al., 2001). The development activities may, e.g., be directed towards the way production work itself is carried out, or towards improving the processes employed for development (Eklund, 2000). Participation is an important cornerstone of TQM (Bergman and Klefsjo , 2001; Imai, 1986). Participation of employees on all levels in the development of work and work environments is similarly an important concept in modern ergonomics, and as many persons as possible should be involved in the process of improvement (Noro and Imada, 1991). Participatory ergonomics is described as the involvement of people in planning and controlling a signicant amount of their own work activities, with sufcient knowledge and power to inuence both processes and outcomes in order to achieve desirable goals by Haines and Wilson (1998). Cutton et al. (1988) point out that it is vitally important to have workers develop ideas for improvement in collaboration with managers. The improvement process differs depending on the approach or strategy a company uses. One way of developing the participatory approach is to provide the operators with simple methods for self-assessment of working conditions (Ha gg, 2003). In Sweden, the legislation on working conditions is rather detailed and enforces a participatory approach by means of, e.g., health and safety committees. One regulation (AFS, 1998:1) contains recommendations for postures, reach, lifting, etc. The trade unions in Sweden have a tradition of cooperation with companies on these issues and make sure that the legislation is followed. Current work with work environmental issues and musculoskeletal load are based on the PDCA cycle, CI and participation from the quality concept through systematic work environment improvement (AFS, 2001:1), which companies in Sweden are required to follow. Many companies develop their own model to deal with these issues. Work with ergonomics is still often seen as solely a matter of health and safety. Only a few companies have reached the state where ergonomics constitutes an integrated part of the overall strategy of the enterprise (Ha gg, 2003). 1.2. The case company The case company, Volvo Car Corporation, Go teborg, Sweden is a car manufacturing company, owned by Ford Motor Company since 1999. In 2005, Volvo Cars manufactured approximately 444,000 cars in their plants at Torslanda, Go teborg and Ghent, Belgium. Of these, 193,000 cars were produced in the Torslanda plant of the S80, V70, XC70 and XC90 models. About 5500 people are

employed at the Torslanda plant. The plant was built in 1964 and consists of press, body, paint and assembly shops. Design and production planning are also situated in Go teborg. The nal assembly plant consists of thirty manufacturing departments, divided into ve areas. In addition, there is a manufacturing engineering department. Volvo Cars has a tradition of attention to the work environment and over the years has developed a working environment management system, an organisational strategy for the participation of everyone, a working environment policy, standards and methods for efcient practical performance (Munck-Ulfsfa lt et al., 2003). During 2002 and 2003 a corporate ergonomic model called BME was developed by Volvo Car Corp. BME, in free translation is Ergonomic Assessment Model. The BME Model contains both criteria and limits for posture, force, and frequency, and has an integrated organisational position in Volvos Safety and Health System. The model is intended to be used by a team consisting of a production engineer and a safety representative. Therefore this model is unique, as most models are developed as expert methods. The trade union and management negotiated an agreement for the implementation of the BME model. The main reason for company management to implement BME was that available models were not specically adapted to their type of production. Also, there are too few ergonomists, and therefore, capacity to evaluate the large number of existing jobs is lacking. Furthermore, ergonomics experts often come to different conclusions, which emphasises the need for a standardised assessment model, easily used by the workers themselves. The decision was also based on economic reasons, as the relationship between quality and ergonomics was well known by several decision makers and ergonomic experts at the plant. 1.3. Aim The aim of this article is to describe and identify factors which support and hinder the use, implementation and application of the BME corporate model for ergonomic assessment and improvement. 2. Methods Four data collection methods were used to get information about the BME model, the implementation process and the BME training programme: interviews, questionnaire surveys, observation and company documentation. Together, the information collected created a multiple source of evidence and a broad information platform. This case study approach followed what Dubois and Gadde (2002) describe as systematic combining, whose main characteristic is a continuous movement between an empirical world and a model world, a process where theoretical framework, empirical eldwork and case analysis evolve simultaneously. A combination of quantitative and qualitative research techniques has been used to

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enhance the validity of the ndings. All information was collected from autumn 2003 to spring 2005. 2.1. Interviews Semi-structured interviews (Kvale, 1997; Westlander, 2000) were held three times with the BME development engineers focusing on why BME was needed, how BME was developed, and how to use BME. An interview guide was used and the interviews were documented by tape recordings. Additional information was gathered through e-mails, short telephone interviews and short meetings, including demonstrations of the BME model. Semistructured interviews were held with the plant safety representative using an interview guide and tape recording in 2003. The second interview with the plant safety representative was held in 2004 together with the union representative of the plant. The focus during these interviews was on why BME was needed, the aspect of cooperation, and the benets of BME from a union point of view. Additional information was gathered through e-mails, short telephone interviews and short meetings. 2.2. Questionnaire surveys Two different questionnaires were used. The questionnaires were given to all engineers and safety representatives who were using the model at each time and had participated in the training programme. The rst survey (N 31, 15 safety representatives and 16 engineers) was made in AprilMay 2004, right after the BME training programme was concluded. The focus of the rst questionnaire was on reactions from the participants about the BME training programme, the use of the BME model in that early stage, cooperation between engineers and safety representatives, and estimated benets of using the model. The second survey (N 39, 25 safety representatives and 14 engineers) was made in April 2005, about 1 year after the implementation of the BME model. The focus of the second questionnaire was on cooperation between engineers and safety representatives, improvements and changes in the ergonomics eld, benets and disadvantages of the BME model, usage of the model, and an estimation of how much the participants had used the model. The results were used to describe the participants0 reactions on the above issues. 2.3. Observations Two kinds of observation techniques were used. Passive observation was used during twelve Work Environment Safety Group (WESG) meetings during 2004. WESG is a forum within a production line focusing on risk analysis, improvements, etc. The observations were performed before and after the implementation of the BME model. The focus of these observations was to investigate how ergonomic issues were discussed and focused. Observation

was also used during two Ergonomic Steering Group (ESG) meetings. In addition to the meetings, informal discussions and interviews were held with participants at the meetings, such as production leaders, engineers and safety representatives, to understand how and where discussions were held and decisions made. During the BME training programme a more participatory observation approach was used (Bryman, 2002). Two observations were made: during ordinary classroom lessons and when the engineer/safety representative team tested the model and their skills in a natural work environment between classroom lessons. The focus of these observations was both to obtain information about the BME training programme in action as well as to investigate how the cooperation between the engineer and the safety representative worked out during their rst BME analyses within the BME training programme and how they used and understood the model. 2.4. Documentation Some company documents were collected and analysed. These were the Volvo training material on BME (Amprazis, 2004) and Volvo Corporate Standard (2002). Internal Volvo protocols with related supplements from WESG meetings and ESG meetings were also collected and analysed as well as organisational charts. 2.5. The BME Model BME (in free translation Ergonomic Assessment Model) was developed by Volvo Car Corporation for assessment of musculoskeletal risks in car manufacturing. 2.5.1. Overall description A production engineer, who was also an Ergonomics Specialist within the engineering department, developed the BME model during 2002 and 2003 in cooperation with the union and experts in the eld. In 2003 the union and the company management jointly accepted and agreed to ofcially support and implement the BME model in the assembly plant. In January 2004, the implementation started in the nal assembly plant. Working conditions have, for a number of years, been integrated in ordinary working tasks at Volvo Torslanda, primarily in the production units. The working environment, including physical ergonomics, is discussed regularly in several forums in the production plant. Volvo also started proactive ergonomic work, i.e. before a new car was taken into production, in order to reduce risks for the employees (for further details, see To rnstro m and Christmansson, 2002; To rnstro m et al., 2003). The meetings in the forum for environmental discussions were one way to identify potentially hazardous situations and to improve the work situation. These are presented in Table 1. In all forums, representatives from other departments, such as logistics, ergonomics, production engineering,

222 L. To rnstro m et al. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 219228 Table 1 Forums for ergonomics work at Volvo (developed from To rnstro m and Christmansson, 2002) Level in Company Torslanda plant Forums Activity (and methods) Participants

Safety Committee (SK)

Strategic analyses and improvement work for safety on plant level Risk analyses and improvement work for safety on assembly plant level

Assembly plant

Local Safety Committee (LSK)

Production dept.

Ergonomic Steering Group (ESG)

Follow up and assist the work of WESG, work with strategies for ergonomics and work safety

Production line

Work Environment Safety Group (WESG) Production Team Meeting (PTM)

Risk analyses, work with the BME model Discussions about production problems and how to solve, Follow-up results of solutions An open meeting for any suggestions or subject, Improvements of the process, Information


Plant manager, Local plant managers (3), Company Health Service Union reps., work environment manager Assembly plant manager, Company Health Service Union rep., production dept. managers, Engineering dept. manager Production dept. Manager, main safety rep., Engineering managers, Company Health Service Experts, ergonomists, physicians, ergonomic specialist in production engineering Production leader, Production engineer, Safety rep., other invited participants Production leader, Quality functions (assembly workers), other invited participants Production leader, an entire (or reps. of) QLE-team or production line, other invited participants

design as well as external suppliers, participated as needed. Both the BME result and suggested solutions are discussed frequently at the WESG meeting. In this forum, led by a production leader, all work with BME is followed up. The BME data is illustrated visually at the WESG meetings and for many of the departments it is presented visually on the bulletin board together with economic issues, schemes, etc. The procedure for solving ergonomic problems raised by the BME model is as follows: the WESG forum works with the problem for three months, then the problem is handed over to ESG, then further on to Local Safety Committee (LSK); if no solution is reached there, the problem is handed over to Safety Committee (SK) (for detail about the forum see Table 1). 2.5.2. Content The BME model identies risks for musculoskeletal problems and thereby offers a basis for improvement. Each work task is assessed in terms of posture, force requirements and frequency of the tasks. The nal assessment is expressed in risk values. The model is based on observations and certain measurements. An engineer and a safety representative together analyse the work situation as an experienced operator works according to given instructions for the work task. Only valueadding tasks are analysed. A protocol is used (see Fig. 2) to evaluate posture, force and frequency according to a grading scale (see Fig. 1). The grades used were: 1; 1.4; 1.7; 2; 2.4; 2.7; and 3 for each of the three factors assessed. The classication is obtained after the calculation, where the three grades are multiplied, based upon the cube model (see Sperling et al.,

1 1.4 1.7 2 2.4 2.7 3

Fig. 1. The grading scale used to assess each of the three factors: posture, force and frequency.

1993). Depending on the calculated risk value, the work task analysed is classied as green, yellow or red. If the risk value is placed in the interval 14.4 the work task is assessed as green, a risk value in the interval 4.57.5 is assessed as yellow, and 7.6 or higher as red. To grade posture, the body parts focused on are back, neck, shoulder, elbow, hand/ngers, hip joint, knee and ankle. When grading force, the users have a table for assistance where measurements in kilos and Newtons are represented. The following aspects are assessed: weight, lifted in standing or sitting position; assembly force, exerted by ngers or hand; pistol machine, electric or air; angel machine, electric or air; grip opportunities and other heavy load handling. To grade frequency, a table is used to identify the number of repetitions for dynamic work or the time in seconds for static work. Green means that there is normally no risk for musculoskeletal problems. Yellow means that some risk is present and that action should be planned in terms of risk monitoring and/or implementation of solutions. Finally, Red means that there is high risk and improvement actions should be taken as soon as possible. When the analysis is nished, the engineer and the safety representative focus on

L. To rnstro m et al. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 219228 223

all yellow and red work tasks in order to nd improvement solutions. 2.5.3. Education To become a qualied user of the BME model, the engineers, safety representatives and others must participate in a training programme for about 3 weeks. The participants receive ergonomic education, review Volvo internal standards, the BME model, cooperation, and practice applying the model in their own work with support from a supervisor. 2.5.4. The model in use The BME model developed into a participatory model that demands cooperation between the engineer and the safety representative, who is also an operator on the production line. This collaboration contributes to different kinds of knowledge and experience. The engineers have knowledge about technical solutions. They are responsible for the description of the work (how the work should be performed and thereby assessed), etc. The safety representative works on the assembly line and performs all of the assessed steps almost every day. Therefore she/he knows how strainful the job is, which tasks are experienced as most difcult and which body parts are exerted the most, etc. When the protocol (see Fig. 2) is completed, a risk value is calculated by a computer program (developed to facilitate the work), for each car model, each work task and for each balance, which consists of a number of work tasks on the line. This means that all the assembly balances are assessed and given a risk value, which is visualised in a scheme in the three colours: redyellow green (see Fig. 3). For example, the 1st line in the table part of Fig. 2 are yields: KV A K F 2.4 1 1 2.4 which yields a green colour and box for S80 in Fig. 3. The next box is red because the next element is 8.1, and so on. 3. Results 3.1. The development and implementation process of BME Even though ergonomic issues were discussed in many forums, there was a lack of an ergonomic overview. This was a strong motive behind the development and introduction of the BME model. The model should also be participatory and support collaboration among production engineers, safety representatives and ergonomists. The observations from WESG meetings showed that ergonomic issues were often discussed, but before the implementation there was a lack of a common way to discuss ergonomic issues. Often stakeholders talked past each other, which sometimes resulted in conicts as well as incorrectly implemented ergonomic solutions;

Now, when there is an ergonomic model that most accept and use, you can talk the same language at different assessments (an engineer). With a clear result, you avoid impressionistic assessment (an engineer). 3.2. Experiences after the training programme A BME training programme started in January 2004. At the end of the training programme, one safety representative and one engineer were required to form a team within a specic assembly area and jointly perform a BME survey, analysis and proposals for ergonomic solutions. Most of the teams also introduced the BME concept at their local WESG forums. The intention was that the safety representative and the engineer responsible for each manufacturing area should also perform future assessments jointly. Initially, all assembly jobs were surveyed with the model and the results were displayed in coloured documentation in greenyellowred (see Fig. 3) for each work task all over the plant. The results from the questionnaire distributed right after the training programme, asking whether the training programme gave enough knowledge and instructions to do BME assessments, showed that the responders were very positive as to their knowledge, which was powerful and useful in their daily work (see Table 2). Most of the respondents found the instructions sufcient but became insecure about some changes to the model at the start of the implementation process. Many, especially safety representatives, were doubtful about the instructions, but none were negative (see Table 2). The users were generally critical about the amount of material to learn during the 3-week-long training programme. Some felt it was too much, but found that it was reasonable, as the theoretical part was followed by practical exercises. The results about performed assessments of BME showed that the engineers had used the model to a greater extent than the safety representatives after ending the training programme (see Table 3). Regarding the cooperation during the start of the implementation, the questionnaire results showed that all of the BME assessments were made to some extent in cooperation and most wholly together (see Table 3). 3.3. Experiences 1 year after the implementation About a year after the implementation of BME (in April 2005), results from the questionnaire showed that respondents still were positive about the knowledge and skills they received during the training programme (see Table 4). It is easy to see which work tasks you can compose (an engineer). One problem that a large group, mostly safety representatives, encountered was retaining their competence, since they performed the analysis too seldom. Some

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Car Torslanda
Belastnings Ergonomisk Dokumentation Utfrdare Christian Olofsson 74250 Sammanstllning Arbetsmoment Klippa av gummiband V-luftslang UP28 Montera clips fr tcv-slang vid bromsrr Montera boosterslang Montera ejektor tillflktkpa Montera clips till vakuumswitch Montera clips till RS-box Montera vacuumslang till clips RS-box Montera vacuumslang till ejektor Anslut brunt K-don till V-pump switch Tag tvrstag ifrn racks Lmna ver tvrstag ntra 2st bultar ntra 1stbult & mutter mellan tvrstag& motor Drag 2st bultar p tvrstag Drag1stbult & mutter med buffogrip Montera gummihatt p tvrstagetsmittenbult Placera RS-box i lge Demonteralock till RS-box Drag fast RS-box (2st skruvar) Placera B+ kabel (nr1) p pinnskruv Placera B+ kabel (nr2) p pinskruv Tryck fast B+ kabel (nr2) med granclips Tryck ner B+ (nr2) kabel i clips Anslut 4-poligt K-don till regulator Anslut grtt K-don Tryck ner gummittning ntra mutter p pinskruv till RS-box Drag mutter p pinskruv till RS-box Tag och lmna ver elkylskablage

r vecka 02/W505
Bilar/Tim Typ

Bandel 1:42
Tim/dag 73470/570 Balansnummer 1347009

Balansnamn Tvrstag v Kommentarer ndringar fr utgva Ombalansering



Hanteringen av tvrstag r mycketpfrestande fr rygg och axlar.

10% 8% 50% 8% 35% 38% 38% 38% 38% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 70% 1% 100% 100% 100% 100% 89%


Variant 5cyl U turbo 6 cyl turbo UP28 6T UP28 V-Pump UP28 P28 VPump P28 VPump P28 VPump P28 VPump 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 88 Bensin CNG/LPG 88 88 88 88 U 8cyl

A 2.4 2.7 2.7 2.7 2 2.4 2.4 2.7 2.7 2 3 2.4 3 2 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.4 2.7 2.4 2 2.4

K 1 3 2.7 2.4 3 2.7 3 2.7 2.4 3 3 1 2.7 3 1 3 2.7 1.7 2 1 1.4 3 2.7 1.4 1.7 3 1 2.4 2

F 1 1 1.4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.7 1 1.7 1 1.7 1.7 1.7 1 1 1 1 1.7 1.4 1 1 1.7 1 1 1

KV 2.4 8.1 10.2 6.5 6.0 6.5 7.2 7.3 6.5 6.0 15.3 2.4 13.8 6.0 4.6 13.8 12.4 4.1 4.8 2.4 3.4 13.8 10.2 3.8 4.1 13.8 2.4 4.8 4.8




1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2




Mycket tungalyftmed tvrstag

Infrskaffa lyftverktyg till tvrstag


Fingrar Rygg.Nacke

Vinkeldarare 10Nm Fingrar Fingrar

B+ kabel svr att tycka iclips

Hjlpverktyg att trycka fast B+kabel med


Fig. 2. An example of the protocol used for documentation of BME assessments. Translation of the main part: Arbetsmoment work task; % how often that work task appears; variant car variant; A (Arbetssta llning) posture; K (kraft) force; F (frekvens) frequency; KV (kub va rde) risk tga value; Kroppsdel body part; Kommentar comment; A rdsfo rslag improvement solution.

Model S80 V70 XC70

2.4 13.8 2.4 3.8 8.1 13.8

8.1 10.2 10.2 4.1 6.5 10.2

10.2 3.8 6 13.8 7.2 4.1

6.5 4.1 6 2.4 7.3 13.8 87%

6 13.8 15.3 4.8 6.5 2.4

6 2.4 2.4 4.8 6 4.8

15.3 4.8 13.8 13.8 15.3 4.8

2.4 4.8 6 10.2 2.4 2.4

13.8 2.4 4.6 13.8 3.4

6 3.4 13.8 6

4.6 12.4 4.5

13.8 4.1 13.8

12.4 4.8 12.4

4.1 2.4 4.1 6. 3

4.8 3.4 4.8

CV 7.2 7.2

Quant 15% 35%



Work capacity

Workplace Cube Value

Fig. 3. A BME sheet presenting redyellowgreen for some work tasks divided by each car model (S80, V70 and XC70). The estimated risk value for this assembly balance is 6.3, with work capacity 87%, and is yellow as visualised in the gure.

respondents expressed a wish to have a follow-up training programme at least one day a year. The results also showed that the variation in how many assessments they performed was large (see Table 5), where safety representatives made fewer assessments than engineers. Also, the engineers

generally made more of the BME assessment work, such as collecting data, the protocol work and computer ling, but the analysis ended up with an agreement and the improvement solutions were discussed between the production engineer and the safety representative.

L. To rnstro m et al. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 219228 Table 2 Results from questionnaire 1 about the users experiences as to whether knowledge and instructions from the training programme were adequate to make BME assessments Did the training program give enough knowledge to make BME assessments? N 31 N 31 Safety rep. Engineer Yes, several times 2 9 Yes, one time 6 6 No 7 1 Positive comments We have done adjustments on existing BME, since we have increased the production and changed some work stations. We will do some new as well (a safety rep.) Negative comments Have no time to do BME (a safety rep.) Cooperation during BME assessments N 28 Safety rep. Engineer Safety rep. Engineer 225 Table 3 Results from the rst questionnaire about the users estimation about performed BME assessment and the cooperation BME assessments after ending the training program?

Positive 13 14 Negative 2 2 Positive comments According to the practical part, it was good (a safety rep.) Negative comments If you do BME assessment just 4-5 times a year you will forget (an engineer) Other comments BME is a big tool, where it might take some time to get a feeling for it (an engineer) The difculty lies mostly on the posture aspect; force and frequency were easier to calculate (a safety rep.) Are the instructions enough to do BME assessments? N 31 Safety rep. Engineer

Positive 8 11 Doubtful 7 5 Positive comments The instruction material was good and we had enough support from the instructor (a safety rep.) Negative comments The instructions have been changed back and forth, you dont know if you are working according to the latest instruction or not (an engineer)

Alone 0 0 Mostly alone 0 3 Half alone/half 2 1 together Mostly together 4 2 Wholly together 7 9 Positive comments Isnt the goal for safety and engineering to have common point of view? (an engineer) Worked out very well (a safety rep.)

Several safety representatives sometimes found it hard to make time for a BME assessment, and some engineers also indicated that to be a problem. The cooperation when using the BME model was rather good. Some teams had found their way to cooperate (see Table 5). The questionnaire showed that many (45%) were positive about the cooperation, 34% doubtful and 21% negative for the respondents (n 38). The engineers tended to be more positive, within the engineering group 71% were positive and within the safety representatives group 29% were positive (see Table 5). 3.4. Consequences of model implementation The document study indicates that ergonomic discussions were more focused on problem identication as well as on improvement after implementation of BME. The observations did also show clear differences in the discussions about ergonomic issues. Before BME was implemented, the discussion often got stuck on differences of opinion, and the discussions went on, arguing different standpoints. This took a lot of time, instead of focusing on the real problem and solutions, and after the implementation the discussions held at WESG meetings were well prepared and focused on various solutions. The questionnaire results showed that the users were doubtful whether cooperation on environmental issues had

Table 4 Results from the second questionnaire about the users experiences as to whether the training programme did (or did not) give enough knowledge and information to make BME assessments Did the training programme and the information give enough knowledge to make BME assessments? N 39 Safety rep. Engineer

Positive 20 13 Negative 5 1 Positive comments I have worked with the model for so long now (a safety rep.) Yes, since we just assess posture, force and frequency, nothing else (an engineer) Negative comments Too little practice within the training programme (a safety rep.) Other comments It would be good to be able to makes updates now and then (a safety rep.) But it is hard to retain competence when you dont make the assessments as often (an engineer)

improved since the implementation of BME. The engineers were more positive than the safety representative (see Table 6). About 56% of the respondents believed that work with musculoskeletal load issues was more effective after the implementation of BME whereas the other 44% had not noticed any differences (see Table 6). The engineers

226 L. To rnstro m et al. / Applied Ergonomics 39 (2008) 219228 Table 6 Results from the second questionnaire about the users experiences about some consequences after the implementation of BME, cooperation improvement, ergonomic situation, interest in work environmental issues Has the cooperation about work environmental issues improved since the implementation of BME? N 37 Safety rep. Engineer Table 5 Results from the second questionnaire about the users estimation about performed BME assessment and cooperation Number of BME assessments 1 year after the BME implementation N 37 Safety rep. Engineer

12 assessments 12 4 35 assessments 2 5 610 assessments 4 1 More than 10 5 4 assessments Positive comments At every production chance (a safety rep.) I work on an area with lot of changers and we make updates all the time with BME (an engineer) Negative comments The engineer have done all that without informing me (a safety rep.) Cooperation during BME assessments N 34 Safety rep. Engineer

Yes 4 6 Doubtful 14 4 No 7 2 Positive comments Work environment includes a lot more, but now we have better focus on ergonomic issues (an engineer) Negative comments I dont think BME is taken seriously (a safety rep.) Has the BME assessments resulted in a more effective way of working with musculoskeletal loads? N 39 Safety rep. Engineer

Alone 2 0 Mostly alone 0 1 Half alone/half 8 3 together Mostly together 5 5 Wholly together 5 5 Positive comments Me and my engineer have a good cooperation and thats because we followed the BME training program together (a safety rep.) We do the assessments together, and then engineer does the computer work, and e-mails us (a safety rep.) Negative comments It has happened that I have done the assessment alone, so the safety rep. has adjusted afterwards (an engineer) Satisfaction with the cooperation N 38 Safety rep. Engineer

Positive 12 10 Negative 13 4 Positive comments Before you had nothing to rely on, now we have (a safety rep.) A structured way of work leads to more effective work all over the plant (an engineer) Negative comments All parties must take BME seriously if it shall work out well. Interest from PL (production leader) is missing to deal with the red spots (a safety rep.) Has the visualisation of the BME results in redyellowgreen, increased the interest in general for environmental issues and improvements by all employees? N 39 Safety rep. Engineer

Positive 7 10 Doubtful 10 3 Negative 7 1 Positive comments A better dialog between me and the engineers (a safety rep.) Negative comments Safety reps. need more time to do assessments (an engineer) To much work is done during the day and I work evenings, the engineers want to go home (a safety rep.)

Positive 15 10 Negative 10 4 Positive comments Its easier to see whats wrong (a safety rep.) My co-workers were interested before (a safety rep.) Negative comments Yes, but for some the focus has ended up at redyellowgreen instead of focusing on improvements (an engineer) People, in general, feel their ergonomic, red, yellow and green spots dont make any differences (an engineer)

4. Discussion The introduction of company models for ergonomics raises many important questions. One principally important question is the validity of such models. The validity of the BME model, in terms of whether the model is valid in identifying risk situations, is, however, not dealt with in this study. This issue has been dealt with elsewhere (see e.g. Axelsson, 2006). Instead, the focus was on, e.g., the ability of the model to be applied, experiences of the implementation of the model, its legitimacy by the users, and if the model results in ergonomic improvements. One of the most crucial explanations for the widespread support for BME in the company is the agreement and cooperative

were more positive about these consequences of the BME model than the safety representatives. The BME implementation allowed and promoted discussions and comparison of workstations. The visualisation of work tasks into red, yellow and green triggered discussions among the employees about the model itself, the reliability, the judgement, different improvements, etc. Approximately 64% of the respondents considered that interest in environmental issues and improvements had increased since the visualisation in greenyellowred was introduced in the assembly plant (see Table 6).

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participatory scheme between the trade union and the company. Both sides agreed to have a negotiated agreement for implementation of the BME model and ergonomic improvements. 4.1. The BME tool

that the cooperation has led to a better understanding from all parties to accept different problems and standpoints, which is one of the core values of CI work and participatory ergonomics (Noro and Imada, 1991; Shiba et al., 1993; Bergman and Klefsjo , 2001). 4.3. Consequences after the implementation of BME

The company goal to make a model to increase the cooperation between safety representatives and engineers has succeeded. The way it was developed, by an internal engineer, led to a model adapted for the work in the plant and for their organisation. The result showed that the engineers were more positive to the model, to the cooperation and the consequences after implementation, which could lead to problems getting the safety representatives to go along with the cooperation. Since an engineer did most of the development of the model, of course it could be easier for other engineers to adapt the material and this way of thinking. Before the implementation of the model, company management was concerned that the trade union would use the model as a weapon in negotiations and that the model therefore could be a potential source of conict. There are also examples of isolated occasions where the union has used the model to take such actions. The forums presented in Table 1 are still in use, and the BME model has become important for organising and standardising the ergonomic work, especially at the WESG meetings. BME has improved the focus of the meetings and demands preparation, since alternative solutions have been discussed before the meetings between the safety representative and the engineer. Material for the outline of the BME model is mostly taken from Swedish legislation (AFS, 1998:1) and from internal Volvo Standards, developed to t Volvos work tasks. Adjustments on the way classications are made, work capacity is handled, etc. would necessarily be made continuously to make the assessment reliable. 4.2. Experiences by the users Most users nd the training programme to become BME-user sufcient and bring out the practical part as especially necessary and rewarding. The engineers are generally more positive about the model than the safety representatives, as pointed out above. One important point that safety representatives as well as engineers raise is that safety representatives nd it harder to nd time to do the assessment. This is an organisational problem which leads to stress by the users and could raise resistance against the model and the results of the assessments since in some cases the engineers do a lot more of the work and perhaps only verify the results with the safety representatives. Most of the users have experienced that cooperation is better since the implementation and that the WESG meetings are better prepared and more effective than before. The results also showed that the model supports a focus on solutions and

The interest in work environment issues increased in the plant as a result of the introduction of BME, according to a majority of the BME users, the plant safety representative and the BME development engineer. In general, the engineers and safety representatives jointly have found a way to communicate ergonomic issues. All are more aware of the procedure for making improvements, including economic and time priorities, and are more open to ways an improvement can or cannot be done and the reason behind those decisions. This is likely to result in a more effective way to handle ergonomic issues. The participants have not only learned a new way of working with ergonomic issues, about ergonomics, workload, etc., they also learned a lot about each others work. The process of working with ergonomic improvements is perceived to be more effective, and the participatory approach is now more action oriented in the plant. The ergonomics situation in the plant is visualised in a simple way. This opened up a lot of discussions and moved the focus towards those issues. It also contributed to a situation where ergonomic issues and environmental work are high on the agenda. Since the BME model only has been applied for about 2 years, it has not been possible to make an extensive evaluation, but there are indications that BME leads to improvements, especially for quality, but also for productivity and personnel economics, etc. (see Axelsson, 2006; Bjo rk, 2006). It is also uncertain whether the cooperation is sustained or developed in another way, and if the model is further developed. Cutton et al. (1988) point out the importance of cooperation between managers and workers, and for BME a necessary condition for sustainable development is continuous support from management and unions. The study shows that the BME model and its use have some deciencies. From managements point of view not all items are fullled. The model is rather resource demanding to use and maintain, mainly in terms of time and knowledge. Safety representatives nd it hard to get enough time to work with the model. The users need a substantial training programme and regular collaboration to retain knowledge and skills for the model. Since two parties should use the model together, it is important that the collaboration works as intended without leading to conicts. The workers consider that the managers on higher levels do not take sufcient interest in the model and its results. 5. Conclusions The Volvo BME model was developed and implemented in order to improve cooperation between engineers and

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safety representatives, to obtain standardised processes for ergonomic assessments, and to obtain more effective improvements and a better working environment. The study shows that the BME model:


improves collaboration among stakeholders in the organisation promotes participation and continuous improvement supports visualisation, which improves understanding and acceptance of ergonomic problems supports a focus on solutions instead of the difculties of making the assessment is suitable for the particular needs of the company since it is adapted to its specic operations and existing conditions is resource demanding to use and maintain is dependent on interest and support from management and unions

Acknowledgements The Swedish council for working life and social research (FAS) is hereby gratefully acknowledged for its support. Acknowledgement goes to employees at Volvo Car Corporation, Torslanda, Go teborg, for their time and openness. The cooperation of the SMARTA research programme at the Swedish National Institute for Working Life is also gratefully acknowledged.

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