E-Barrow Pilot Field Trial

Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) and the Scaffolding, Access and Rigging Association of NZ (SARNZ) formed the NZ Scaffolding musculoskeletal disease (MSD) Taskforce, which identified shoulder-carrying of scaffold parts as a major risk factor for MSD. An e-barrow was suggested as a possible intervention to transport scaffold parts. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate an e-barrow for its feasibility to transport scaffold parts to reduce shoulder-carrying in scaffolders, and to propose design improvements.

Two analytical pre-post interventional participating ergonomics field trials were conducted in New Zealand (January–April 2022) by the cohort (two groups of scaffolders). A scaffolding company based in Hamilton (10 males; two females aged 18-36) and one based in Rotorua (10 males aged 21-38) were recruited by SARNZ. The mixed-method research model included secondary (literature study) and primary (pre-intervention, process and post-intervention trial stages) research. Built on the theories of participation and feedback-interaction, the process stage consisted of five points of contact: the informative toolbox-talk and e-barrow demonstration; three on-site observation sessions (using risk assessment tools, photos, videos, and qualitative feedback); and the final evaluation session (completing surveys).

The first trial, although terminated after six workdays, provided valuable information about what parts could not be transported with an e-barrow (anything longer than 1.5 m) and led to the refinement of the selection criteria for the next trial group. The second trial confirmed that scaffold parts up to 1.5 m are transportable with an e-barrow. The use of an e-barrow led to reduced shoulder-carrying, reduced physical output and improved productivity despite increased breaks. The second trial’s risk assessments and feedback were overwhelmingly positive. Minor design changes were proposed, but not implemented. A size guide was created specifying transportable scaffold parts.

The e-barrow was feasible to transport scaffold parts up to 1.5 m long, subject to site accessibility. Reduced shoulder-carrying, physical output and increased productivity were reported. Minor design changes could increase its feasibility. Using the scaffolding size guide, scaffolding companies can determine whether the e-barrow would be a sound investment. Shouldercarrying of longer lengths remains a cause for concern.


TRIAL FUNDING: CHASNZ via Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) sponsorship.