The Physician Directed Functional Job Analysis program was a competitively awarded contract with Robins Air Force Base (RAFB). Many workers at RAFB have physical restrictions which prevent them from participating in productive work without accommodations of some type.
The goal of this program was to provide these workers with ergonomic and medical evaluations, and recommendations to return them to productive work. The program was a part of the new return to work process at RAFB in which MERC filled the role of the Physician Directed Evaluation Team (PDET).
MERC’s staff of ergonomists and rehabilitation engineers worked with an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate personnel to determine the appropriate characteristics of a safe and productive job, then analyze jobs on-base to determine the best fit. The outcome of an assessment was a recommendation for placement in a particular job, or jobs, with or without accommodations.
The program capitalized on MERC’s strengths in the fields of ergonomics and rehabilitation engineering, as well as our familiarity with managing and overseeing government contracted programs. MERC is committed to identifying and recommending methods of reducing worksite injuries and thus reducing the government’s overall cost associated with these injuries.
The experience and expertise that MERC has in the disciplines of biomechanics and human factors are evidenced by the multitude of projects which have been accomplished by the MERC team. These projects cover the full range of applied research and development, ergonomics, crew station work analyses, and rehabilitation engineering support. Some examples include the following:
F-15 Fuel Cell Ergonomic Intervention Project
MERC analyzed the maintenance processes and identified the ergonomic risks involved in the fuel cell build-up tasks required during F-15 depot level maintenance.
Building up fuel cells on the F-15 aircraft requires manually installing heavy rubber bladders, fitted with brass plumbing flanges, into six areas of the fuselage. After the plumbing is installed, the mechanics forcefully stuff pre-cut blocks of stiff, reticulated foam into each fuel tank to fill up all of the available space.
Ergonomic risks included:
- Awkward postures leading to high exertion at extreme joint angles
- Extreme heat and humidity
- High compressive loads for wrist, elbow, shoulders, and knees
- High finger loading
- High grip forces
MERC developed and implemented solutions and associated tools to improve the efficiency of the fuel cell buildup process and mitigate the risks to which the mechanics were exposed while accomplishing the work.
The overall ergonomic risk was reduced by more than 40 percent, while task time was reduced by seven man-hours per aircraft, resulting in savings of approximately $100,000 per year, with return on investment (ROI) of six months.
Physician Directed Functional Job Analysis Program
This program was a competitively-awarded contract with Robins Air Force Base. Many workers at RAFB have job-related-injury physical restrictions which prevent them from participating in productive work without special accommodations. The goal of this program was to provide these workers with ergonomic and medical evaluations and recommendations to return them to productive work. The program was part of a return to work process at RAFB in which MERC filled the role of the Physician Directed Evaluation Team.
MERC’s staff of ergonomists and rehabilitation engineers worked with an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate personnel to determine the appropriate characteristics of a safe and productive job and analyze jobs to determine the best fit. This program has resulted in a consistent 78:1 ROI.
MH-53 Flight Engineer Seat Modification
As an example of crew station work analysis, MERC executed a project to redesign the MH-53 helicopter Flight Engineer seat and integral restraint system to improve ergonomic access, crash protection, and situational awareness during extended day and nighttime missions.
MERC performed task, workload, and ergonomic analyses needed to set parameters for the seat design and modeled the flight engineer using simulation software. The software automatically collected human factors data from the simulation. The software also enabled 3D visualization, which enhanced the designers’ ability to identify issues and work through design iterations more efficiently.
A full task and crash scenario simulation allowed the designers to evaluate the seat design relative to the human factors design requirements. Biomechanical analysis was used iteratively throughout the seat development process, including design, trade-off analysis, and design validation.
During the design process, reach and control envelopes were developed for 5 percentile and 95 percentile males with which to determine the access and adjustability parameters necessary for functionality. The seat was successfully designed, built, and integrated into the Special Operations Forces fleet of MH-53 helicopters, resulting in improved mission capability and reduced risk of injury to personnel.
In addition, MERC has worked supporting Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation involving extensive assessment of physical and cognitive workload requirements for a wide range of jobs, and the development of technological interventions to support the successful placement of individuals with many different types of disabilities into those jobs.
We have also supported school systems across Middle Georgia to help them more effectively educate children who have a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities. We use our expertise in human development, learning modalities, cognitive processes, and adaptive technology to guide teachers and schools in effective techniques and technologies for teaching and learning.