As we head into winter, alas, let's cast a fond look back at the balmy days of summer, when a dish of ice cream is never far from our thoughts. We read in the Vancouver Sun of a workers comp claim related to scooping. An unnamed convenience store employee served ice cream in the spring of 2009. She had a pre-existing shoulder problem, for which she had received cortisone shots. During one two-day period, she scooped $1,500 worth of ice cream cones. The pain in her shoulder flared up, to the point where she had to quit her job.
She had surgery on her shoulder and filed a workers comp claim, which the provincial board initially denied. She prevailed on appeal. Despite the pre-existing condition, her work certainly aggravated her shoulder through repeated scooping, bending and reaching, presumably with her wrist at an awkward angle. Scooping ice cream is not a risk-free endeavor.
Ergonomics at Ben & Jerry's
I called Ben & Jerry's (make mine Cherries Garcia), to learn about their approach to safety. They are well aware of the potential problems. Their employees are taught the mechanics of scooping: aligning themselves in front of the containers; using arm muscles (as opposed to the wrist); taking frequent breaks with stretching. Several of the folks I talked to in corporate began as scoopers in a local store, so their awareness came from personal experience. This is no surprise, given the proactive corporate culture.
The next time you indulge in a frozen treat, check out the mechanics of the scooper: do they move right in front of the bucket or do they reach across? Are the buckets placed so that reaching can be minimized? How well is the arm aligned? Is the wrist bent? Is the ice cream really hard and resistant?
Ok, I know, I sound like a killjoy, but once you look at the world through an ergonomist's eyes, there is no turning back. By all means indulge (moderately) in your pleasures, but try to do no harm.