Bright Ideas #8: McGovern Lever
Unvierstiy of Massachussetts Lowell
Working overhead contributes to the development of neck and shoulder
injuries, especially when using a heavy tool. Besides that, it's difficult
to maintain a productive work pace while applying force with both
arms raised up to the ceiling. Anyone who has had to sustain any kind
of overhead work does not need to be told what the problem is. To
be sure, the National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health
has said that there is a demonstrated relationship between this kind
of work and the development of shoulder tendinitis, or other kinds
of nonspecific pains in the shoulder. The more time spent in this
posture, the more severe the pain or injury is likely to be.
IBEW Local 103, drills into a concrete ceiling.
Mike Joel, Piledrivers
Local 56 and Certified Safety Professional, recognized during the
project planning of a building refurbishing job that the demand on
the workers could lead to trouble. Mike has seen his share of overhead
work during years of experience as a safety manager on the Big Dig.
When he learned that this latest job would require 19,000 holes to
be drilled into a concrete ceiling, he raised the issue at a project
planning meeting, challenging planners to reduce the shoulder strain
to the workers who would have to do the drilling. The man who responded
to the challenge is Jim Byrne, Bricklayer Local 3. On this job, he
happened to be the general foreman. "I just rather do something easy
than have some guy chasing us around for a week," Jim said about Mike's
challenge. Mike was delighted, adding, "Jim's idea is one of the most
creative ways of responding to this problem that I've ever seen."
So, a simple process of a safety manager recognizing and communicating
an ergonomic hazard during planning resulted in a Bright Idea from
the general foreman on the floor. After the meeting, Jim went to work,
and by the end of the day, Jim had built a prototype.
Jim has an understated
response when you ask him about the solution. His responsibility as
foreman demands a solution a minute, so it isn't unusual for him to
be creative. The McGovern Lever uses an adjustable seesaw attached
to scaffolding to serve as a lift for a drill fastened to a post.
You press down with your foot, the seesaw lifts the post, thus applying
upward pressure for the drill to do its job overhead. With access
to a welder, the materials cost about $35, but that's nothing compared
to the rate of productivity that his men could maintain and the amount
of pain and wear on the men that gets eliminated. The Levers are so
well regarded, that it would cost a worker his job if one of them
were to disappear.
The McGovern lever
in use by Paul Zangla of Laborers Local 151 Photo: Derek Lines,
John Moriarty Associates
It helps to have
a person on site who points out how materials handling or tool handling
might put a worker at risk. It helps even more when that person wants
to do something about it. This Bright Idea testifies to the safety
personnel who had the influence to help reduce risk, and to the workers
who had the ingenuity to respond in a simple and effective manner.
We wonder how many more Bright Ideas might be out there that might
have come to light in this way. A safe work environment not only includes
Bright Ideas on how to reduce physical risk, but it also encourages
and allows for workers to put their creative ideas into action. Others
have tried the idea pictured at right. Pictured is a Laborer, who
has set his drill on a 2x4 shelf across the railing of a personnel
lift. The McGovern Lever will give even greater control over the force
you apply than you will get by operating the hydraulics of a personnel
A Laborer, Local
223, has found another way to save wear on his shoulder.
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