Industrial Ergonomics


Case Study: Yellowstone National Park

Type of Study

The research study conducted on the Yellowstone National Park was exploratory in nature. Specifically, the study is a social exploratory case as asserted by Stebbins (2001) as being “a broad-ranging, purposive, systematic, prearranged undertaking designed to maximize the discovery of generalizations leading to description and understanding of an area of social or psychological life,” (pp. 3). Using the given definition in context, it is quite evident that the investigation was purposive by the statement that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) had been instructed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) department to undertake the research with the sole aim of verifying whether snowmobiles usage within the park were a hazard to the employees health and fitness. To achieve this, NIOSH had to set the framework and methodology to be applied in the study.

With the problem already defined, data was collected from primary sources, which involved interviewing the members of staff on health matters, appraisal of the snow mobile equipment in terms of comfort and a medical nerve test on the hands. This was followed by data analysis that generated the results to be used in ascertaining whether the snow mobile equipment is safe or hazardous to the employees’ health. Lastly, the suggestions to the given findings were given as the conclusive part of the study. This framework infused an element of systematic organization for the work. According to the definition, the report given, the employees, National Park officials and the OSHA department acquired a level of understanding within the working environment (social aspect).


Ergonomic Issues Involved

Ergonomics as a discipline applies three main measures in the analysis of worker safety. First, the worker is mandated to various moves that aid in the attainment of the best posture required for health enhancement and preservation (Karwowski, & Marras, 2003). Primarily, workers may offer their services while sitting or standing, or a combination of both. Due to this, the working field should be fashioned in a manner that ensures comfort with whichever style that the workers undertake. In our context, snow mobile equipment involves a lot of sitting from the employees. NIOSH required the employees to fit within the snow mobile vehicles and photos and filming was carried out on the pose, both for the upper and lower parts of the body. The leg force exerted on peddles was also noted as well as the steering in terms of grip and control. The workers were asked to state their body adjustment in terms of posture as they patrolled the areas since the road was notably uneven.

The hand region was measured for the combined vibrations from the road and the vehicle. The jerks experienced by the workers during a normal trip were also meted and computed with the use of automated computer systems. These measures can be justified by the second and third measures of ergonomics. The second involves the assertion that, physical work has to be allocated generally to all the muscles within the body, with a bias towards the large muscles that are able to handle a lot of strain. In our case, snow mobile primarily involves the combined use of hand muscles in steering control and the foot muscles in terms of peddle control. For the peddles, common sense would dictate the exertion of pressure from the thigh muscles as opposed to the toes as the latter will require more force to press the peddle and consequently, the toes have a high probability of being injured in the process. Thirdly, for safety purposes body joints should oscillate within the range of one to ninety degrees (Karwowski, & Marras, 2003). Extending this range would only result to muscle strain. For instance, the leg ankle should not exceed ninety degrees while on the vehicle peddle as the load exerted on the joint will lead to health problems.

Findings and Recommendations

The seats were fashioned with regulatory elements that could allow the driver to alter the back rest as well as the lower rest in a backward or forward manner. The problem with the seat movement in a backward manner is that it resulted into joint strains on the whole arm length. He shoulder joint had to acquire a ninety degree position, as opposed to forty-five degrees, and this would lead to fatigue. Consequently, since the arm would be straightened, the elbow would be forced to open into close to one hundred and eighty degrees, opposed to the recommended sixty or seventy degrees (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2001). The hand vibrations were measured with the number of employees being twenty one. The jerks for the rest of the body were also noted within the set speed for the given vehicle being at forty-five miles for an hour. The conclusion on both was that the snowmobile indulged the driver hand and body movements that were hazardous due to the rough road states.

To alleviate the noted problems, NIOSH proposed that first, the vehicles needed to be constructed in a manner that would customize the snowmobile o a particular individual according to their body size and preferred posture position for enhanced comfort. Alternatively, categorization may be attained with the use of congruence measures so that a particular group of users may be able to have a fleet of snowmobiles that serve their needs. Secondly, for easy hand movement on the steering, the throttle was to be repositioned as well as ensure that the clasping diameter is enhanced (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2001). The steering wheel needed also to be equipped with adjusting gear that would offer the employees the ability to slant or raise the wheel for the sake of shoulder and elbow joints use. This would really reduce the exhaustion exerted on the muscles. Thirdly, regarding the jerks from the driving experience, the report recommended that the snowmobile producers should ensure that there is a shock absorbing mechanism that would divert these adverse spasms from being conducted into the driver’s body.

Additionally, the paths would require being re-carpeted for an even texture. The interval for the re-carpeting would be greatly condensed by the reduction of the vehicles operating per given route. Lastly, the precautionary measures for employee health status would require some sort of knowledge impartation to the workers with regard to indicators of health dangers that when noted would signal the worker to seek medical aid or advice. This would prevent the condition from deteriorating to severe levels. The time period spent on the snowmobile should also be downsized to less than ten hours for a given session. This way, the period that a worker spends on the vehicle will be reduced and consequently the probability of health issues will also be lessened (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2001).

Further Comments

The review process was quite informative especially on the sitting aspects. It was very east to relate the three elements of ergonomics namely joint movements, muscle use and posture to other fields like the classroom. The information acquired from the exercise was quite a challenge and due to this I resorted that to apply the simple golden rules in any form of working environment. Additionally, I learnt that the labor resource within an organization should be accorded the highest form of care as it involved humans unlike principal, land property and entrepreneurship. It would be good for the park to adapt to the practice of concerning the employees in decision making especially with regard to problem identification. As the data was collected from interviews and the use of questionnaires, I would have liked to see a few direct statements quoted form the employees on a number of the questions given. This would ensure that the report acquires a sense of pragmatism by the emotional tone within an individual’s statement. More to this, it would have been good to incorporate diagrams that would aid the reader to visualize the problem being discussed since most of the measure or components discussed are a bit technical and thereby hard to understand.









Karwowski, W., & Marras, W. S. (2003). Occupational ergonomics: principles of work design. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2001). NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Report: HETA #99-0283-2855 Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Retrieved from

Stebbins, R. A. (2001). Exploratory research in the social sciences. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.




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