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Effect of cycle time and duty cycle on psychophysically determined acceptable levels in a highly repetitive task

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Psychophysical methodology has been used to develop guidelines for lifting and more recently similar methods have been applied to repetitive upper limb movements. While a range of cycle times are usually used, there is often no control for duty cycle. The purpose of this paper is to present psychophysically determined acceptable torques for a common upper limb task, with both cycle time and duty cycle conditions set by the researcher. Eight female participants, sitting at adjustable workstations, performed a simulated in-line screw running task. A computer-controlled torque motor applied a torque every 3, 6, 12 or 20s with a duty cycle of 25, 50 or 83%. The participants worked with one set of conditions each day and self-selected the highest torque that they felt was acceptable without developing undue pain and discomfort. Duty cycle was found to significantly affect the amount of torque selected. With duty cycle controlled, cycle time was no longer found to have any significant effect on selected torque. Acceptable torques for 25, 50 and 83% duty cycles were 1.09, 0.9 and 0.73 Nm. Discomfort and stiffness were concentrated on the back of the hand and on the thumb web. These findings suggest that increased perception of discomfort with increased frequency (decreased cycle time) may be related to decreased rest/recovery time for muscles.
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Keywords: Cycle time; Duty cycle; Muscle; Psychophysical; Screw driving; Upper limb; Work-related musculoskeletal disorder

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3, Canada 2: Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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