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Use of accelerometers as an ergonomic assessment method for arm acceleration a large-scale field trial

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Ergonomists need easy-to-use, quantitative job evaluation methods to assess risk factors for upper extremity work-related musculoskeletal disorders in field-based epidemiology studies. One device that may provide an objective measure of exposure to arm acceleration is a wrist-worn accelerometer or activity monitor. A field trial was conducted to evaluate the performance of a single-axis accelerometer using an industrial population (n = 158) known to have diverse upper limb motion characteristics. The second phase of the field trial involved an examination of the relationship between more traditional observation-based ergonomic exposure measures and the monitor output among a group of assembly-line production employees (n = 48) performing work tasks with highly stereotypic upper limb motion patterns. As expected, the linear acceleration data obtained from the activity monitor showed statistically significant differences between three occupational groups known observationally to have different upper limb motion requirements. Among the assembly-line production employees who performed different short-cycle assembly work tasks, statistically significant differences were also observed. Several observation-based ergonomic exposure measures were found to explain differences in the acceleration measure among the production employees who performed different jobs: hand and arm motion speed, use of the hand as a hammer, and, negatively, resisting forearm rotation from the torque of a power tool. The activity monitors were found to be easy to use and non-intrusive, and to be able to distinguish arm acceleration among groups with diverse upper limb motion characteristics as well as between different assembly job tasks where arm monitors were performed repeatedly at a fixed rate.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia ParkwayR5, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2000

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