This is especially the case for small companies which often do not know which options they have available in their facilities to improve ergonomics. Even worse, they are not aware of the costs that result from a bad ergonomic environment.

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This article will point out, what the term ‘ergonomics’ means, what bad ergonomics can cost, and how the ergonomic situation in the area of manual material handling (MMH) can be improved by overhead lifting with vacuum tube lifters.

A simple approach

– Ergonomics is concerned with the mutual relationship between man and machine. On one hand, the tasks and working conditions are matched to the person and on the other hand the person is prepared, by exercises or training, for the required tasks;

– The basic principle of ergonomics is the adaptation of the work to the people who do it;

– Ergonomical design means consideration and utilisation of the properties and requirements of people while, at the same time, observing economical criteria;

– The main objective of ergonomics is to protect the health of all potential users.

The effects

Ergonomical design effects stress and strain of the user in a variety of ways. ?For example, physical strain, including static and dynamic muscular strain; psychic stress such as concentration requirements (for example, simple operation); and environmental stresses like temperature, noise, vibrations, illumination and dust.

The negative impact of bad ergonomics is in general greatly underestimated. From sitting at a desk to operating heavy equipment, bad ergonomics can lead to a multitude of problems both physical and psychological.

Ergonomics can increase employers’ costs by reducing safety in the workplace and causing short- and long-term physical injuries.

From the physical side, injuries can range from simple cuts and scrapes to more serious damage such as head, neck and back injuries, including broken bones.

Depending on the working environment, psychological injuries can also arise from poor ergonomics. Stress and overworking can have long-term effects on the mental health of employees, influencing their efficiency in the workplace.

In order to get a more vivid picture when thinking about the consequences of having bad ergonomics, an iceberg is a good comparison (see Figure 1). Most employers see only the surface effects of having bad ergonomics, such as employee recovery time and extra pay for difficult working conditions. But 90% of the effects often go unnoticed and cannot be seen from most employers’ perspectives.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Through ergonomics, workplaces can be designed so that workers do not have to overextend themselves, and the manufacturing industry could save huge expense in workers’ compensation.

Besides that, an employer has certain responsibilities:

– Creating a work environment with equal treatment for all employees;

– Protection of all personnel employed with each company;

– Implementing protective measures: the employer must equip the workplace such that the employees suffer no injuries to their health or property while at work.

Vacuum tube lifters

Only one medium is the basis of tube lifters for material handling: vacuum. The load is gripped and lifted with this single medium only. No ropes or chain hoists, manipulators or lifting cylinders are needed during operation.

Put simply, as vacuum generators, blowers are usually used. They can be frequency-regulated for optimal adjustment of the suction capacity and the vacuum to the requirements of many different applications.

A suction hose connects the vacuum generator to the tube lifter. Hose lengths of up to 50m are possible. The actual lifting unit (the tube) is variable in diameter and length, depending on the maximum load, the lifting height and workpiece weight.

The operator handle is the most important choice and helps to meet the specific application requirements.


Operator handles with a twist grip (similar to that on a motorcycle) are ideal for fast and precise handling of light and heavy loads. Typical work pieces are wood panels, light metal sheets and cardboard boxes. The load is lowered by lowering the wrist and lifted by raising it, enhancing safety and a healthy posture at all working heights.

When it comes to heavy loads, for example sacks, slabs and bales of raw rubber, in rough surroundings, an operator handle that is operated right over the workpiece can be the best choice. The load is lowered by pushing the handle down and lifted by raising it.

For very fast operation of light objects that have to be moved frequently a one-hand operating handle can be used. Operator handles can be customised. For example, when it comes to handling a workpiece at a great height, pivot handles can be used. Finally, the suction pad needs to be chosen carefully.

It is the part of the vacuum tube lifter than gets in contact with the workpiece. The many different standard suction pads can be combined freely with all types of lifting tubes. Different sizes, shapes and materials are available for every application.

Vacuum tube lifters cause little stress on the back when lifting heavy workpieces. The operator can easily lift, move and position workpieces up to 660lbs (with lifting devices that use a chain hoist, it can even go up to 2,200lbs). Even when lifting goods in less high frequency, the operator will feel no fatigue. This results in:

– Faster handling times;

– Less people needed to carry out lifts (meaning the same number of people can achieve more);

– Safer handling;

– No damage to work pieces – less deficient products;

– Worker motivation.