Article Abstract

Third Place Award: Barriers to Adopting Ergonomic Interventions in the Semiconductor Industry
Phillip Clark; Colorado State University

Industries worldwide continue to face many challenges concerning ergonomic related injuries. Many industries have developed ergonomic policies or adopted ergonomic guidelines, but are continuing to experience work related musculoskeletal injuries. Questions have arisen as to why ergonomic injuries continue to be prevalent within the workplace when steps have been taken to address workplace ergonomics. One explanation for the ubiquitous presence of ergonomic injuries may be related to psychological barriers inherent in workers behaviors; ergonomic interventions, or tools, machines or procedures that were intended to reduce ergonomic injuries were possibly being ignored by the operators the interventions were intended to help. A literature review was conducted as an introduction to some of the known psychological barriers to ergonomic interventions. Additionally, focus groups and personal interviews were conducted at two semiconductor fabrication sites to determine the barriers to adopting task specific ergonomic interventions; specifically, this study focused on workers ability and willingness to follow wafer cassette loading procedures. Every semiconductor fabrication site processes and fabricates wafers in a unique manner. However, all manufacturers call for the similar process of photolithography, photomasking, or patterning. The processes are performed repeatedly until a predefined electrical characteristic and circuitry of the wafers are accomplished (Burgess, 1995). Furthermore, the semiconductor industry has become much more automated in recent years (Hunter et. al., 2003). While some of the automation has been prompted by the desire to increase the precision and accuracy of the circuitry, some automation has become necessary because of the increased size of the wafers. Regardless of the automation in the semiconductor industry, musculoskeletal injuries are still prevalent. Musculoskeletal disorders represent approximately 29% (740) of the semiconductor industries 2570 nonfatal OSHA recordable injuries. Furthermore, 11% (290) of these recordable injuries are due to repetitive motion injuries; this is in contrast to the national average of 3% of the total nonfatal OSHA recordable injuries associated with repetitive motion (BLS2, 2006). The heavy workload, inadequate equipment design, high production demands, and repetitive wafer handling activities are all risk factors associated with musculoskeletal disorders for semiconductor industry workers (Pocekay et al, 1995). While there has been an overall increasing trend towards automation in some facilities, some manufacturers have found profitable methods of producing wafers small enough where they can still be loaded and manipulated manually. The sites visited for this study manufacture 6 inch wafers and rely heavily on the manual loading of wafer cassettes throughout much of the production process. The focus of this paper was to identify the barriers to adopting task specific ergonomic interventions in the semiconductor industry. Tasks of greatest ergonomic concern were identified, and assessments and evaluations of program efficacy were made of current ergonomic interventions.

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