Thermography Graphic and men group

​Treating injuries is a thing of the past. The trend now is to prevent them from happening!

FCA uses thermography to anticipate possible injuries and offer preventative solutions to workers

July 29, 2019 - Widely used in the sports world to evaluate athletes, thermography is also used in industries. However, its application has been restricted to machines, until now. Since the focus of ergonomics is to prevent injuries due repetitive or poorly executed efforts, FCA has taken the initiative to use the same machine used for equipment maintenance to assess employee predisposition to possible injuries. This use, in the mold of the Industry 4.0, is a pioneering strategy in Brazil.

In addition to the big robots that do the heavy lifting, there are also small collaborative ones that help workers, the exoskeletons, that help carry loads and assist with posture, and other technologies such as virtual reality, which adapts production lines to more favorable conditions for the employees.

Thermography cameras detect the infrared spectrum and, thus, measure temperature differences. Therefore, it’s possible to use it on people to identify a predisposition to injuries and anticipate treatment. "A predisposition to injury will have a higher than normal temperature reading. In thermography, temperatures send an alert and, with that, we can act preventively ", affirms work physiotherapist Izonel Fajardo, responsible for the ergonomics at FCA. FCA is the first industry in Brazil to adopt this technique with an emphasis on occupational health.

In the newly inaugurated World Class Center, at the Fiat Automotive Plant in Betim (MG, Brazil), there is the Ergo Lab space, the FCA's Ergonomics Laboratory. It is here that the thermographs of the 24 workers participating in the pilot project, which began in October 2018, are analyzed. Volunteers are evaluated continuously so that the progress of the measurements can be monitored. Photos with a thermographic camera are taken at the beginning of the work day. The technology helps evaluate blood vessels, tendons, muscles and innervations

Thermography cameras

"Any inflammatory process arises from five phlogistic signs: heat, redness, edema, pain and loss of function. Warming is the first sign", says Izonel. With thermography, it’s possible to identify the process in its initial stages, from heat, before there is redness, edema (swelling) and, mainly, pain and loss of function. In other words, with this method, it’s possible to identify individuals predisposed to lesions or lesions in the initial stages, even if there is no apparent symptom. Thus, workers can be referred for preventive treatments, in order to stop the inflammatory process from advancing. "Those evaluated have no complaints and no signs", Izonel says. "But some people are predisposed, which is what we want to identify". It’s the ergonomics of the future.

When changes are identified in workers, they can, for instance, receive more postural classes or be relocated to different position in the factory, albeit temporarily, to avoid inflammation. Depending on the case, they may even initiate preventive relays or physiotherapy. But the assembly lines themselves are already built to fit ergonomics. "In planning a production line at the start of a new model, ergonomics first assesses whether there is any potential risk and the need for some change, such as increasing the height of the line or adding an extra mechanical arm, for example" , Izonel explains. The video below shows a little bit of this. It's worth watching.

"In the future, we will not have patients that need treatment. Instead, we will treat healthy people so they don’t get sick". This is our focus, Izonel explains. "Increasingly, we are looking for mechanisms to improve the comfort and safety of people in the workplace", he says. And the project has worked. "Preliminary results indicate that the method has potential and we intend to expand its application in other FCA plants in Latin America", announced Izonel.

Words: Daniel Schneider

Pictures: Marketing

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