NCRMA Wins Penn State’s The Learning Factory Lockheed Martin Best Project Award for Ergonomic Analysis of Workers During Cannabis Cultivation Activities to Reduce Musculoskeletal Injury

May 12, 2021

Seeking to design a safer work environment for the cannabis cultivation process, the National Cannabis Risk Management Association (NCRMA) has partnered with Atlas Performance Group to help reduce repetitive motion injuries and related risk factors.

This partnership has resulted in an award-winning ergonomic study through the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory in Penn State University’s College of Engineering. The study, entitled An Ergonomic Analysis of Workers During Cannabis Cultivation Activities to Reduce Musculoskeletal Injury, won the Best Project Award, given by Lockheed Martin. 

Led by Dr. Edward DeMeter, a team of PSU students – Brayden Borromeo, Jenny Lynch, Lohith Reddy, Samantha Schindler and Renuka Tiwari – examined worker motions during cannabis trimming and assessed musculoskeletal strain over a series of weeks. The objective of this project was to characterize worker motion during cannabis trimming for the purpose of identifying musculoskeletal strain and the areas in need of improved equipment. Through extensive research, our combined team proposed and designed new standardized equipment and methods to reduce musculoskeletal strain during trimming. The team designed an ergonomic table that showed postural improvements in a test subject’s cervical spine flexion, pelvic tilt, and elbow angles, resulting in the project’s first place win.

The team analyzed the impact of repetitive motions using a standard trimming table and determined that creating an ergonomic table would best improve worker safety. The ergonomic table (Trim Center) that they manufactured included a chair type and height, table shape and height, and clipper design. 

Data was collected using Noraxon’s software via sensors on various parts of the test subject’s body throughout the study. After analyzing the anatomical angles and EMG activity for the standard and ergonomic tables, the outcome showed improvement in the cervical spine, pelvis, and elbow flexion angles. While more studies are needed the results of this study show improvement in preventing musculoskeletal injury and identified best practices and controls to help keep trimmers safe.  

Because cannabis production has recently become legal, there is no standard on how workers are to perform trimming to protect themselves from injury. There is little regulation done by OSHA at this time because of the new industry, but the cumulative trauma disorders that cannabis trimming causes can cost an average of $30,000.00 per case.

By protecting cannabis workers while trimming, the NCRMA can save companies money and keep the workers in the workplace. It is very common that workers experience soreness, tingling/numbness, swelling, stiffness and loss of grip strength all due to the long hours spent in poor posture. These symptoms can be temporary, but if left untreated have the potential to turn into more severe problems later on or cause extended strain. Correcting the postural errors that are causing these symptoms is a top priority in ensuring the safety of the workers.

To learn more, watch the full NCRMA Project Showcase Video or read the full Penn State project summary.

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