Sustainability Case Studies

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2012 — Health and Safety

Ergonomics: a priority at Alcoa’s Baie-Comeau Smelter

In a spirit of continuous improvement, we are refining a number of the tasks performed by our employees to ensure their wellbeing and decrease the risk of incidents. Here are a few of these initiatives:
Operating service vehicles
Service vehicles are used for various jobs related to the prebake electrolytic pots. We identified a number of significant ergonomic issues in connection with their operation, including:
  • Operating the vehicles resulted in neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back and ankle pain.
  • The working position was uncomfortable for many operators because the seat was not ergonomic and could not be properly adjusted.
  • Constant pressure had to be applied on the pedal using the same foot
  • Visibility was limited.
And now:
  • The seats have been replaced with ergonomic pneumatic seats with multiple adjustments.
  • Adjustable elbow and forearm supports have been installed and help eliminate shoulder pain.
  • Employees now benefit from control boxes with ergonomic joysticks, which improve usability.
  • More sensitive pedals were installed that decrease the amount of pressure required to activate the vehicle. There are also two pedals now in each cab, allowing the operator to use either foot.
  • New windows with a deeper angle improve visibility.

Clearing pieces of bath from the anode butts
Employees in the Anode Sealing sector use an air hammer to remove pieces of bath incrusted on anode butts. Before improvements were made, this was done by holding the tool at arm’s length, which often resulted in shoulder and wrist pain.
To reduce the ergonomic risks and substantially decrease the weight of the tool, supports were installed on mobile carts that allow for the unencumbered use of a winch with counterweight.

Recovering pieces of bath
In the past, employees used a relatively ineffective shovel to remove pieces of bath from the pot during anode replacement in the Prebake Electrolysis sector. The shovel was not large enough to pick up pieces of bath of different sizes.
As a result, employees had to use a long handled fork to extract the bath from the hole. The required effort led to a risk of back injury.
The manufacture of new, more efficient and robust shovels now allows workers to efficiently remove pieces of bath from the pot – even larger ones. The new shovel has helped not only eliminate ergonomic risks but also a risk of falls.