Case Study-AW-Q395

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Ergonomic Assessment Tools


Base on statistics, six million workers suffer from workplace injuries, costing businesses more than $125 million a year (Witt, 2005). Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) cases in particular represented about 33% of all workplace injury and illness cases in 2011 (Hoff, 2014). The most common MSDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries, epicondylitis, muscle strain, and low back injuries. Consequently, these MSDs have been related to workplace safety and health issues that could be addressed by a sound ergonomics program (Brown, 2005). The primary goal of an ergonomics program is to reduce or eliminate muscle fatigue while increasing productivity and reducing cases of MSDs (Mallon, 2010). In pursuing ergonomics in the workplace, organizations and workplaces employ various ergonomics tools including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Lifting Equation and Rapid Entire Body Assessment which are the topics covered in this paper. The goal of the paper is to discuss these ergonomics tools with focus on their nature and how they are being used in today’s workplaces. In addition, this paper presents examples of the applications of the NIOSH lifting equation and Rapid Entire Body Assessment in the oil and gas sector.

NIOSH Lifting Equation

The NIOSH Lifting Equation serves as a guideline or a model that provides a way for occupational health and safety practitioners to compute and determine an acceptable load for lifting, balancing weight, frequency of lift, and vertical and horizontal distances the load is to be lifted (Steinbrecher, 1994). The equation was developed to help safety and health practitioners in the identification of ergonomic solutions for reducing the physical stresses associated with manual lifting (Waters, Anderson & Garg, 1994). To provide a short background, the NIOSH lifting equation has been developed and published by the NIOSH in the United States in 1981 for the purpose of setting weight limits for lifting tasks (Dempsey, 2001). A revised equation/version was published in 1993 and has since been considered the gold standard by which lifting hazards are quantified (Townley & Hair, 2005).
Originally, the equation is applicable to two-handed lifting and lowering tasks under certain conditions such as in the case of lifting/lowering without carrying, pushing or pulling, and lifting and lowering in favorable ambient conditions (Dempsey, 2000). The revised equation expanded the number of tasks that can be evaluated by providing methods for evaluating asymmetrical lifts; lifts of objects with less than optimal hand container couplings; and guidelines for longer work durations and lifting frequencies (Townley & Hair, 2005). The NIOSH lifting equation is based on the following assumptions/conditions: lifting and lowering tasks have the same level of risk for lower back injuries; the task is performed with two hands; exposure duration is no more than eight hours; workers are standing while performing tasks; and workers are physically fit (Townley & Hair, 2005).
The primary deliverable of the NIOSH lifting equation is the recommended weight limit (RWL), which has been referred to as the ideal weight of the load that nearly all healthy workers could perform over substantial period of time (i.e., up to eight hours) without an increased risk of developing lifting-related LBP (Waters et al, 1994). The RWL or the NIOSH lifting equation is shown as follows
RWL = LC x HM x VM x DM x AM x FM x CM
LC = Load constant (23 kg)
HM = Horizontal Multiplier (25/H)
VM = Vertical Multiplier (1-(.003 /V-75/)
DM = Distance Multiplier (.82 + 4.5/D)
AM = Asymmetric Multiplier (1-(.0032A)
FM = Frequency Multiplier
CM = Coupling Multiplier
Rapid Entire Body Assessment
The Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA) is based on the rapid upper body assessment (RULA) system and is one of the postural measurement systems developed by ergonomics practitioners. To provide an overview, the REBA method analyzes posture by measuring the articular angles and by observing the load or force and repetitiveness of movements and the frequency of position changes. In the REBA, the postures of the neck, trunk, upper and lower arms, legs, and wrists are grouped into ranges. Furthermore, each posture range, relative to the anatomical regions evaluated, is associated with a score corresponding to values that get progressively higher as the distance from the segment’s neutral position increases. In using the REBA, score A represents the sum of the posture scores for the trunk, neck, and legs while the Load/Force score, whereas score B is the sum of the posture scores for the upper arms, lower arms, and wrists and the coupling score for each hand. Ultimately, the REBA score is obtained by entering scores A and B and adding them to the Activity score (Pillastrini et al, 2007). Generally, the REBA provides a means for assessing posture for risk of work related musculoskeletal disorders. The REBA also involves assessing the posture factors by assigning scores to tasks (Gangopadhyay, Ghosh, Das, Ghoshal & Das, 2010).
The REBA employs a systematic process in evaluating whole body postural MSD and risks associated with job tasks. In conducting a REBA, users use a single page worksheet that focuses on required or selected body posture, forceful exertions, type of movement or action, repetition, and coupling. The REBA has been designed in a manner that promotes easy use without the need for an advanced degree in ergonomics or expensive equipments. Basically, all that is needed is a pen and the worksheet (Middlesworth, n.d.). To use the REBA, health and safety practitioners assign a score for each of the following areas: wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, neck, trunk, back, legs, and knees using the following scoring table
Score Level of MSD Risk
1 Negligible risk, no action required
2-3 Low risk, change may be needed
4-7 Medium risk, further investigation needed, change soon
8-10 High risk, investigate and implement change
11+ Very high risk, implement change

Applications of the NIOSH Lifting Equation and REBA
The NIOSH Lifting Equation and the REBA could be implemented as part of the ergonomics program of companies in the oil and gas sector. In general, these tools can be used to improve health and safety of workers in the workplace. Beginning with the NIOSH Lifting Equation, gas and oil companies could use the NIOSH lifting equations in job analysis. Taking the case of a worker whose work involves unloading of cans of liquids from a cart to three storage shelves, the NIOSH lifting equation could be used to determine the ideal weight of the cans of liquid and possible redesign suggestions to address hazards on the job. Job analysis shows that the job is divided into three tasks: lifting from the cart to the lower shelf; lifting to the center shelf; and lifting to the upper shelf. Using the NIOSH lifting equation, it becomes possible to determine the frequency-independent RWL and the frequency independent lifting index values for each task.
Aside from the NIOSH lifting index, oil and gas companies could also use the REBA to improve health and safety of workers in the workplace. Using the REBA, workplace health and safety practitioners should use the prescribed worksheet to assess tasks. As part of the process of conducting the REBA, evaluators should begin by interviewing workers being evaluated to gain an understanding of the task and demands and observing the worker’s movements and postures during several work cycles. The REBA worksheet focuses on two body segments, which are labeled A and B. Section A covers the neck, trunk, and leg while Section B covers the arm and wrist. In using the REBA, scores are assigned to each area using the scoring table. Afterwards, score in Section A is added to the score in Section B to come up with the final score. A high REBA score suggests high risk thus calling for immediate attention.

MSDs have been related to workplace safety and health issues that could be addressed by a sound ergonomics program. In pursuing ergonomics in the workplace, organizations and workplaces employ various ergonomics tools including the NIOSH Lifting Equation and REBA that offer structured framework in assessing hazards in the workplace and eventually in developing corrective actions.

Ergonomics in Hand Tools Design

The main concern of ergonomics is to reduce muscle fatigue while increasing productivity and reducing the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. When correctly deployed through engineering and design, ergonomics could create and deliver safer, less costly and more productive work environments (Mallon, 2010). Hand tools used in construction in particular has ergonomic features to ensure the safety of the workers and at the same time increase overall productivity. This paper looks at ergonomics in construction hand tools design. The goal is to describe the ergonomic features of construction hand tools. Firstly, this paper provides a working definition of ergonomics. Secondly, this paper a discussion of the application of ergonomics in the design of hand tools for construction.

Ergonomics in Construction Hand Tool Design


Construction requires inter alia, bending and twisting, working in awkward or cramped position, reaching away from the body and overhead, repetitive movements, handling heavy materials and equipment, use of body force, exposure to vibration and noise, and climbing and descending. Consequently, construction workers are at greater risk than those in the general population and workers in industries, of developing certain disorders (Deacon & Smallwood, 2010). To reduce the risk of disorders among construction workers and users of hand-tools, ergonomics has been incorporated in the design of construction hand tools.

Hand tools have been in existence since pre-historic times. The transition from primitive to modern, sophisticatedly engineered tools has radically changed the way work is performed. Consequently, these advances in tools also have created new challenges involving the complex interactions between users and their tools (East &Sood, 2005). As noted in Rozzi (2004), genuine ergonomic hand tools pay off by reducing the risk of both direct and long-term injury to construction workers, thus improving overall productivity. In this regard, including ergonomic guidelines in tool design has received considerable attention in the past few years. As noted in East and Sood (2005), ergonomic design can help optimize human performance by ensuring that the hand tool supports the task needs as well as the human capacity. More importantly, ergonomically designed tools ensure that job demands do not exceed human capabilities.
In practice, ergonomic tools feature rounded areas and protective shields to reduce the risk of immediate direct injuries. Furthermore, ergonomic hand tools also reduces the cumulative wear and tear on skin that results to abrasions, blisters and calluses (Rozzi, 2004). For all hand tools, ergonomic design could be in terms of one of the following: tool weight, handles, shape, diameter, length, span, material, vibration, and contact stress (East &Sood, 2005). Each design area is further discussed in the following sections

Tool Weight

Going through each one of these design areas, the weight of the tool and distribution of the load within the tool has been considered an area of concern as this could affect the way the operator/user holds the tool. Design in this area is concerned with whether one or both hands are required to stabilize the tool; the amount of time an operator/user holds the tool; and the precision with which it can be manipulated. Base on ergonomic design guidelines for hand tools, it is appropriate to limit the weight of the tool to 3 pounds or less for tools operated with one hand. For precision operators, tools should weigh less than 1 pound. Aside from the total weight of the tool, the distribution of weight in the tool should facilitate comfortable gripping in the orientation that helps align the tool’s center of gravity with the center of the gripping hand. Taking the case of drill tools which are front-heavy, this particular tool require more effort to balance while in use. To address this particular concern, it would be necessary to include a tool balancer in the design. Other ergonomic features include tool holders, articulating arms, or adding micro-break straps to the hand tool.


Handles of hand tools have also been an area of concern in ergonomic design. Ergonomic design guidelines require hand tools to be designed so that they can be held using a power grip. In ergonomic design a power grip requires the operator/user to align the fingers so that they work in conjunction with, instead of against, each other to optimize the hand capacity.


The shape of the tool especially the handle is an important consideration given its effect on wrist and arm postures. In the design of hand tools, attention is given to the type of task, orientation and layout of the task as well as the workplace. Ergonomic design guidelines for hand tools require selecting the handle in such a way that the tool does not need wrist flexion, extension or ulnar or radial deviation so as to allow the operator/user to maintain a neutral wrist posture. Furthermore, ergonomic design guidelines prefer pistol grips when the force is exerted in a straight line in the same direction as the straightened forearm and wrist, particularly when the force must be applied horizontally. Meanwhile, tools with straight handles are best used when tasks require force to be exerted perpendicularly to the straightened forearm and wrist.


In general, handles should be cylindrical or oval in shape. Ergonomic design guidelines require handles of hand tools using power grip to have a diameter of 1.5 inches. The recommended minimum is 1.2 inches while the recommended maximum is 1.8 inches. On the other hand, the preferred diameter for hand tools that use a pinch grip is 0.4 inches. The recommended minimum is 0.3 inches while the recommended maximum is 0.5 inches.


The length of the handle is an important consideration in the design of hand tools as a handle that is too short could cause unnecessary compression in the middle of the palm. Referring to ergonomic design guidelines, the handle should extend across the entire breadth of the palm. Furthermore, the required handle length is 5.5 inches and with a recommended minimum of 4 inches.
Some hand tools are equipped with two handles and are used for crushing, gripping, or cutting tools like pliers or tongs. In the ergonomic design guidelines, the preferred handle span for one-handed tools with two handles (i.e., pliers) is 3 inches. However, the range of the span could be as short as 2 inches and as wide as 4 inches.


The material used for hand tools, specifically the handles, should be made of non-slip, non-conducive, and compressible materials. The use of the correct material for the handles of hand tools could ensure a good grip by creating sufficient friction between the hand and the handle. As seen in most hand tools, textured rubber handles are used to provide a good grip and the same time reduce the effort needed to use the tool effectively and prevent the tool from slipping out of the hand.


In ergonomic design guideline, the main concern is to create as much distance as possible between the vibration-generating hand tool and the user. To achieve this, it would be necessary to use tool covers and anti-vibration gloves.

Contact Stress


Contact stress is given attention in ergonomic design of hand tools to the extent that mechanical stress or pressure can be transmitted to the palm and the finger during hand tool use. Ergonomic design guideline set limit on force, whereby force is not allowed to exceed 22 pounds/inch.


The primary goal of ergonomics is to reduce muscle fatigue while increasing productivity and reducing the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomic hand tools specifically can help maximize human performance on the job by making the job easier for the construction worker, improving safety and reducing incidences of injuries.Incorporating ergonomic in the design of construction hand tools can help optimize human performance by ensuring that the hand tool supports the task needs as well as the human capacity. In the design of ergonomic hand tools, major areas of concern are tool weight, handles, shape, diameter, length, span, material, vibration, and contact stress.

Usability in Ergonomics


During the recent year human society evolved from the “industrial society age” and transformed into the Knowledge society age. This is determines that the knowledge media support migrated from paper and pen to computer-based Information System (IS). This transformation introduced some of the technological, methodological and organizational changes have an impact on the demands, stress and work-load over employees in many times and in a negative manner. Because to this fact Ergonomics has assumed an increasing significance, as a science and technology deal with several problem of adapting the work to the man, in terms of Usability (Nunes).

Usability is considered a key issue on ergonomic interventions about IS. Usability can be defined as a quality or the characteristic of a product, defining whether it is enough, effective and satisfying for this who utilize it. But, Usability is also considered an ergonomic approach and a group of techniques that its main objective is to create such products, based on user-centered design. Recently the evolution on society and technology changed dramatically, having a very high impact on work methods and organization. In addition, these transformations brought some work-related problems that have an impact on human life, for example the musculoskeletal disorder or stress during the past generations when human lived on rural society. Regardless of the hard life, the tasks were diverse, that turns to various workload solicitations. With the introduction of chain production and assembly lines, there was a changes on the demand imposed to workers. Moreover, the specialization, characterized by different and repetitive work and an imposed working pace are in the origin of an increasing number of occupational diseases, caused by extreme solicitation of the body parts. The mental load also increased dramatically, for example lack of autonomy (Nunes).

In the knowledge society the physical workload tend to be smaller and reduced on the workers to have a very high mental workload. In fact, the static awkward postures (for example on neck and shoulders), while the lack of job diversity and the high solicitation of some of the specific body parts (wrists, fingers, in terms of operation of VDU terminals) are considered cause of work-related disorders. Furthermore, the cognitive side the demands on the workers awareness also increased throughout the years, due to that the volume of the data to process including the need to answer and make decision faster. These increases the workers’ stress that is also considered an enabler factor of work related disorders (Nunes).
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Usability is the quality of characteristic of a product that denotes how easy the product is to learn and use; however, it is also ergonomic approach, including a group of techniques and principles in a design usable and accessible products, based on user-centered design. ISO 9241, Part 11 (1998) state that Usability is defined as the effectiveness, satisfaction and efficiency with a specific user that achieve goals in certain environments. It applies the equally to both hardware and software designs. The three key terms are: Effective is the accuracy and completeness in a specific user that can achieve their own objective with the system; Satisfaction is the comfort and acceptability in a particular system to the users together with other people affected in the system; and Efficiency is considered resources expended associated to the accuracy and completeness (Nunes).

The lack of care regarding users need can be resulted to solutions tend to cause errors or that can provide users with enough insufficient information. Some examples of such events on daily life can be demonstrates and there are some websites that illustrates problematic situations. Moreover, it is important to consider that usability is not a single, one-dimensional property of a users interface. Usability have different components and it is traditionally related with these usability attributes: Learnability, memorability, errors, satisfaction and efficiency (Nunes).

Sufficient usability is essential due that that it is a characteristic of a product’s quality that helps to enhance product’s acceptability, which increases the users’ satisfaction, enhancing products’ consistency and it is also financially beneficial to organizations. Such advantages can be seen from 2 point view, related to workers’ productivity because reduce training time and fastest task competition, and other selling of products because it is easier to sell and users experience positive experiences. Significantly, a product designed with user physiological and psychological characteristics in mind, is more effective utilize due to that it can reduce time to accomplish in particular work and easier to adopt and learn as well it is satisfying to use (Nunes).


Ergonomics serves a tool to work smarter by designing tools, equipments, work stations and tasks in order to fit job to the worker or users that will balance the job characteristics with human capabilities. Ergonomics is a system-oriented discipline that is extends across all aspects of human activity. When applied ergonomics help to optimize the functioning of systems by ensuring that they are well-suited with human capabilities and needs. By definition, ergonomics is a broad discipline which covers the following: a.) usability; and b.) application of anthropometrics in workplace and equipment. The primary focus of ergonomics is to ensure a user-friendly design of technical systems, tools and machines not only to ensure health and safety but also to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.

Oil and Gas Construction

Oil and Gas is important in daily activities in the economy. For instance, gas is used at home, buildings, vehicles, businesses and other equipment. The different gases are used in much variety of industries, but most of the gases are use in food, polymer and metal industries. Usability and Ergonomic integrates human factors into the design and operation of onshore and offshore oil and gas assets in order to improve, reliability, efficiency, effectiveness and safety. Human factor teams focuses on the application of HF knowledge to the design and applications, construction and operation of oil and gas assets (Human Factos in Oil and Gas).

The main objectives to ensure that the systems are design effectively that can optimizes human performance and reduce or eliminate risk health, personal, safety and environment performance. Using human factor training to project teams to ensure the design intent and requirements are communicated and well understood. Assessing safe staffing, workloads, testing emergency preparedness and ensuring the arrangements for communication is very important in safety critical information during the construction and initiation of on-site emergency plans. It important to provide a framework for fatigue management in order to establish the needed shift-working patterns and guidance for the workers on how best to manage fatigue during operations. Understanding and correlating human contribution to accidents using techniques in order to ensure human factor are fully considered determining the causes of accidents (Human Factos in Oil and Gas).

Human-machine interface are use in the construction the serves for the information exchange between the operator or user and the machine. The HMI commonly referred to as the human-machine interface has been considered an emerging risk industrialization since it brought several machines and tools at work. These machines have increasingly grown in terms of complexity and number. HMI design was based on technical requirements and not on the characteristics and needs of operators. With this, workers were left no choice but to adopt with the technical system’s design process (European Agency for Safety and Health at Wrk).

It was only until mid 20th century that the design process has paid more attention to the operator. This progress has lead to significant changes in terms of design paradigms which culminated the shift towards user-centered design. The introduction of ergonomics or the so called human factors, industries have been more considerate with employees’ health and safety. One measure is the adapting tools and machines fit for human skills, anatomy as well as limitations. This progress were made possible by growth in the construction of socio-technical system. This includes employees, tools, and task. The use of computers for example and other machines have made HMI more prevalent all over the globe (European Agency for Safety and Health at Wrk).

In construction of oil and gas facilities largest scope for enhancement is in the consideration of workers and their need to design. The focus on human factors need to be increased or improves to take account in physical aspects (perceptual processes) and psychological aspect (cognitive processes). In addition, the design process must serve to reinforce human factor limitation and potentials. The input from the users and from the design process is important can be based on testing (European Agency for Safety and Health at Wrk).

Occupational Biomechanics in Construction

Occupation biomechanics is a field that deals with any movement that corresponds with doing occupational work and duties [1]. With varying jobs come varying types of physical demands that is being required to the body which makes occupational biomechanics broad in terms of scope. As an example, a teacher who teaches kindergarten kids would have different motions compared to a lumberjack who does heavy grinding and cutting of logs and trees. More so, the field of occupation biomechanics is very useful in the creation of new ideas that will ultimately help in removing the aches and pains that come in the daily routine work.

Most of the time, individuals are taking their health for granted until it comes to the point that their ability to conduct work is being affected. For example, a tree-planter is used in his or her daily activity of planting trees in order to generate cash income. However, it is highly probable that the tree-planter will have musculoskeletal disorder due to the awkward positions and the heavy load that is being carried frequently. Occupational biomechanics can be used here in understanding the occupational routines that will benefit the workers in having a more efficient, healthy and happier lifestyle in a daily basis even with all the work they perform.
This research paper will highlight occupational biomechanics as a discipline needed to improve the workplace of an individual. Moreover, the paper will focus on the musculoskeletal disorders and injuries that can be acquired through work and the factors that lead to it. Risk factors and preventive guidance will also be discussed. Finally, two case studies of occupational biomechanics specifically in construction industry will be tackled.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are illnesses that stem from the locomotor parts of the body like the muscles, tendons, bones, cartilages, ligaments and nerves [2]. These types of disorders span from light and not very harmful injuries to irreversible and dilapidating injuries. As mentioned previously, the first part of the paper will focus on the musculoskeletal disorders that are caused by the motions of work, along with the circumstances that may be present with it. Nonetheless, even though work causes and/or intensifies these types of disorders, household and/or sports activities may also cause and aggravate musculoskeletal disorders.

In general, health disorders are induced when the mechanical workload is greater than the load capacity of the locomotor parts of the musculoskeletal system. Typical injuries and consequences of the muscles, tendons and ligaments may be in the form of strains and ruptures, while bones can have fractures, microfractures and other degenerative changes. Additionally, presence of inflammation in the opening point of muscles and tendons can also indicate musculoskeletal disorders. In general, there are two types of injuries. The first one is acute and painful, while the second one was chronic and lingering. The acute and painful type is usually due to a strong though short-term heavy contact which led to an immediate failure in the structure and functionality of the part. Examples of this include a tearing of muscle because of lifting a heavy block of wood, or bone fracture from colliding with a hard object, and blockage of a joint which is caused by an intense movement. The second type which is the chronic and lingering injuries could come from permanent overloading which leads to an increasing pain and loss of function. An example of this is the tearing of ligaments due to continuous use, tendovaginitis, and spasms that are being experienced by the muscle.

Risk Factors of Musculoskeletal Disorders

There are numerous factors that could induce the development of musculoskeletal disorders. The main cause of these injuries is the mechanical overloading that is experienced by the body. The overloading is due to the high intensity forces that are performed in everyday life. Some occupational activities that may need high mechanical loading include the handling of instruments, and the push-and-pull forces applied on tools and other machines. As with any other injuries, the effects of the problem is dependent on how low or high the applied force is. Other basic risk factors aside from mechanical overload include repetition frequency, length of exposure, posture, and accidents.

The length of exposure to the load is a critical factor in the progress of musculoskeletal disorders. The number of repetitions that the load is placed per unit time and the total duration of exposure are some values that can be used in quantifying time-load relationship. Another factor mentioned was the posture of the individual while doing the job. This type of risk factor stems from the continuous motions like twisting and bending which in turn increases the risk of acquiring injury, especially at the back. Posture factor is a very important role, even the more when working in small spaces. Finally, aside from the usual work-related issues, musculoskeletal injuries can also occur through encountering unique, unpredicted and unplanned circumstances like accidents. An example is a sudden ACL tear could happen within the knee region during a basketball game through a large load or shock. As with any risk factors, accidents can cause musculoskeletal injuries through overstraining the parts in motion.

Preventive Guidance

Risk factors from mechanical overloads can also be traced from the method on how the worker proceeds in executing the work. Risks can never be eliminated totally, however, less risky guides and strategies can be done and implemented in workplaces during the execution of the various tasks. In carrying heavy loads, the most important factors are the mass of the load being carried, the horizontal distance of the body to the object, and the length of time being allotted in handling the load. Things that could be done in this situation include lifting the load closer to the body and using two hands. An upright trunk posture can also help which is through extending the flexed legs and this prevents bending and twisting of the body. Moreover, mechanical machines like cranes, pallet jacks, elevators, and lifters must be utilized whenever available. Finally, if the load is too much, it is better to do get multiple persons carrying the load. When doing work requiring high force exertion (e.g. push-and-pull of objects), it is better to do the pushing and pulling in a manner wherein the force is closer to the body. Two hands are much better than one in order to exert smaller effort.

Finally, lateral bending and twisted trunk must be postures to be avoided in pushing and pulling of objects. Unfavorable postures are also risk factors that require high muscle force in the body which can cause overloading and fatigue. Aside from the previous guides, it would also be better to have a smaller distance between the working space and the body. Objects like scaffold and ladders would help in closing the distance between the body and the space. Changing postures once in a while could also help in decreasing this risk factor because different muscles are getting used alternately and lightly. Thus, alternating motion of standing and sitting posture would also be beneficial for the body. Finally, environmental conditions which are also present at work should be addressed as these are also factors in sustaining injuries. Hand-arm vibrations through handheld tools are common in the construction industry and this can lead to hand disorders and blood circulation problems. Obviously, this can be lessened by using low-vibration tools, using gloves, and reducing the overall time of usage. Whole-body vibration from vehicles can be addressed by utilizing vibration-absorbing seats and decreasing the duration of stay. The climate and temperature are also hazards when kept unaddressed. Proper garment must be worn all the time, and avoiding rooms with too high or low temperature must be done.

Case Studies in the Construction Industry


In a research done by House, Sauve and Jiang in 2010, construction workers with noise-induced hearing loss were hypothesized that they experience Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome at the same time [3]. According to the study, numerous manufacturing and construction workers were being exposed to very high noise levels which make them prone to noise-induced hearing loss. Moreover, these researchers pertained to the use of handheld vibrating tools as the cause of high noise levels. These handheld tools are very important and essential in the manufacturing and construction business. Aside from the hearing loss, these handheld vibrating tools can also cause hand disorders and blood circulation illnesses, as previously mentioned. The findings from the research showed that the vibrations had adverse effects on the hearing loss and the Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome. About 18% of the respondents had encountered hearing loss and about 37% of the respondents have stage 3 Stockholm Vascular Scale Stages which is also brought by the vibrations from the handheld devices. In the end, better protective equipment like vibration-absorbing gloves must be implemented in order to lessen the risk of having this type of injuries.

In a separate research paper done by Kittusamy and Buchholz, the whole-body vibration and postural stress of construction workers stationed in construction equipment was reviewed [4]. Operators of this equipment do daily tasks that expose them to numerous risk factors previously discussed that may lead to various disorders. Some occupational biomechanical hazards that they listed in their literature review include whole-body vibration, postural requirements, noise, dust and temperature. Among these hazards, the top risks for the induction of musculoskeletal disorders were whole-body vibration and awkward occupational postures. The whole-body vibration comes from the construction equipment they are stationed in. moreover, the 8 or 12-hour shift exposes their bodies to these vibrations which could cause degenerative disorders especially in the lumbar and thoracic spine. The static sitting is also required and this unnatural posture for a long duration of time can have adverse effects on the body. These operating engineers and workers must be protected by having vibration-absorbing seats and time off. Proper protocol regarding the whole operation must also be created and it must benefit the workers and engineers alike.

Finally, the field of occupational biomechanics is very wide and every bit of it is essential. Health disorders like the musculoskeletal disorders can be prevented using proper risk guidance. The risks that are employed in every occupation can never be removed totally, but lessening it is indeed possible through occupational biomechanics. With proper dialogue between the employees and the employer, safer protocols and guides can be implemented in any workplace.

Anthropometry in Construction

Before any design project is constructed, there needs to be considerations for the end users during the conceptual stage. Too often, problems occur when the end users’ needs are not satisfied by the design solution provided. This happens when research is not done extensively on how the resulting project will be used and who will be the primary users. For example, benches that are designed to low with no slight inclination on the backrest are uncomfortable to sit on. A car designed with a short leg space for western countries will cause the owners uneasy driving due to limited feet movement. Restrooms for persons with disability that are too cramped will cause difficulty for those using wheelchairs to maneuver themselves around the room. These and other design projects fail because the users’ need did not guide the design process.

The Importance of Anthropometry

Anthropometry is the physical measurement of human body parts and its other physical characteristics. According to Professor Alan Hedge of Cornell University, there are two types of measurement used, namely static and dynamic anthropometry. Static or structural anthropometry measures the distance between bones and joints, soft tissues, and other parts of the body including skin, muscle and fats. Static anthropometry is made in reference to an unclothed person with no other package included. On the other hand, dynamic or functional anthropometry measures distances created by the body when it is moving or involved in physical activity (Hedge 2003). Examples of dynamic anthropometrics include measuring a person who is reaching down to a bottom drawer, turning radius required for people using wheelchairs, minimum walkway clearance required for two people walking towards each other, measuring safety zones around children’s play equipment, and the likes.

Anthropometry is an integral aspect of any design field. Built environments or products where humans are the primary users should be developed from anthropometric data because it is very important to consider how the physical human body interacts with the end product as it does certain actions and activities. In practice, anthropometric data should be the guiding principles and should set the design parameters of projects for a specific group of people. By extensively considering anthropometric data during the design process, it can be assumed that the end product’s form and function will be beneficial to the end users. Ultimately, the goal of anthropometry’s use in construction is to “improve efficiency, safety, health and comfort” by making things easier to use, thus improving the quality of people’s lives (“Anthropometry”).

How Anthropometric Data is Derived

Anthropometric data around the world varies because the characteristics of people vary depending on their geographic location. The characteristics of people in China, for example, are very different from those in the United States, and those from Africa vary physically from those living in Europe.This results to different standards and measurements per geographical region. For a specific continent or region, anthropometric data may be more similar within the continent as compared to a global scale. According to Professor Hedge, the distribution of measurements can be statistically denoted by the mean or the average, the median or midpoint, and the mode or the most recurrent number. Distributions can either be normal, non-normal or skewed, reflecting the variety of physical characteristics in the survey area. Anthropometric diversity also happens between genders as male dimensions generally differ from female dimensions, which make the data derived more varied. By making all these considerations before conducting an anthropometric survey for a specific region or users, the resulting anthropometric data will be more feasible to use in the design project. However, due to the expensive costs of conducting project-specific anthropometric surveys, sometimes existing data are “used and modified to get a good estimate of the data needed” (“Anthropometrics”).

Applications of Anthropometry in Construction


Anthropometric data heavily influences the outcome of construction projects as it is one criterion that should be significantly considered during the design phase. These measurements have shaped standard design parameters for various regions and people. As stated above, anthropometry involves the static and dynamic measurements of the physical body. There are various anthropometric data derived from surveys that are important considerations in construction of projects.

First, the stature of a person is important as it will dictate the minimum acceptable headroom clearance from beams, ceilings, lighting fixtures and others for both interior and exterior working spaces. Visual or eye height is another factor considered in construction as the eyes are the “centre of the visual field” (“Anthropometrics”). From the resulting eye height data, the designers can then properly locate visual displays, signages, visual warning signs, and the like. The eye height information can also be used so as to avoid installing fixtures that may become a visual obstruction to people. Shoulder height should also be considered as this determines the allowable comfortable reach zones of specific people. By analysing people’s shoulder height and arm rotation reach, designers can strategically locate operable installations like control panels, adjustable fittings and other fixtures. Installing these items at levels too high for the average shoulder height of the end users will cause difficulty in operating the said devices. In relation to the shoulder height, the elbow height is an important consideration for designers as this will dictate what would be the most comfortable height for work surfaces, computer desks, and tables that will cause the elbow and shoulder to be relaxed.

In designing railings, handgrips and other support structures, the knuckle height should be considered. An increase of 100mm above the knuckle height is already considered a comfortable level (“Anthropometrics”).For comfortable reach, the upper limb length and shoulder grip should be considered when installing reachable surfaces like grips and handles. In addition, the length and breadth of the hand must also be considered to determine the specification needed for the handles and grips. For control surfaces that need to be operated with fingers like keyboards and touch screen panels, the fingertip height or the vertical distance from the tip of the middle finger to the floor is the minimum acceptable height.

For the lower body, the consideration of the hip height determines the functionality of the lower limbs. The sitting height is computed by getting the distance between the sitting height and the top of the head, and clearance is required from the sitting height to obstacles above the head of the user so as to avoid accidental bumping when standing up. The sitting eye height, shoulder height, and elbow height shares similar important considerations as their standing counterparts, except that they are brought to a lower level.

The thickness of users’ thighs must also be considered as this data determines the minimum acceptable distance between the seat and the underside of the table, work desk, or other surfaces where people are required to sit down. The buttock to knee length, on the other hand, determines the allowable distance between the back of the seat and objects in front of the users’ knees. The sitting knee height determines the clearance needed between the floor and the underside of the table.

In designing seats or choosing seating furniture, the popliteal height determines the highest acceptable seat height where the users can still be comfortable. In determining the minimum required width of a seat, the hip breadth measured as the maximum distance across the hips when sitting must be considered. The width of the seat should not be shorter than the hip breadth. For clearances between the back of the seat to obstacles in front of the user while seating, the chest depth must also be considered so as to avoid a very cramped space.
In designing steps, pedestals and design features with changes in elevation, foot length and breadth must be considered to provide the minimum clearance needed when accessing these features. Providing steps that are smaller than the average foot dimensions of the end users might cause uneasiness and accidents when trying to access these steps. For walking clearance, the shoulder breadth determines the minimum required space needed for people to walk freely whether in indoor or outdoor spaces. For lateral reach clearances, the span or distance between the fingertips of two outstretched arms and the elbow span should be considered.


The extensive use of anthropometric data in design and construction can provide a more comfortable and relaxed home, office, school, or public environment for the end users. Given the diversity of people in the world, the designers should take note of the specific anthropometric parameters of the people in the region where the design will be constructed. Because of the statistical extremes present even in a local population, it is almost impossible to provide a tailor made solution that will fit every person’s need. But by studying the demographics and existing anthropometric data available and making the necessary alterations needed, designers can provide designs that are more convenient for the physical requirement of the end users. By providing the right solutions needed by the people, designers can eliminate the unease and discomfort experienced by people using spaces and things that do not fit their physical characteristics. Form and function will be useless basis for design if the criteria of including the relevant dimensions of end users are neglected. In conclusion, a design only becomes good when the end product is being used by the people with ease, efficiency and comfort.


Ergonomics in Workstation Design


A science which deals with the design or arrangement of objects so that people can interact and use these objects easily and safely is called ergonomics (Ergonomics). It is also sometimes known as biotechnology, human engineering, or human factors. The priority of ergonomics is to allow humans to use objects immediately, eliminating the need to study or adapt to these objects. It emphasizes the creation of objects which, when used, bring out the natural ability of people while at the same time minimizing their limitations (Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors). Besides objects, ergonomics also deals with the design of jobs, workplaces, and protocols which allows people to use their strengths, both physically and mentally, to perform the tasks they have been given efficiently and productively. People who study ergonomics observe how people interact with things, processes, environments, and products in order to determine how to improve these things so that they are more comfortable, safer, and easier to use (Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors).

Ergonomics is an important science because it allows humans to maintain and improve their health by making it easier to function using the tools and designs it has produced. It can be applied to all aspects of human life such as communication, labor, transportation, and culture in order to create a safe, secure, and comfortable society(Japan Ergonomics Society).

The most common application of ergonomics is in the workplace since it is where humans expend the most energy to produce results. A study regarding the benefits of ergonomics to a workplace showed that it reduces costs, improves productivity, quality, and employee engagement, and creates a safer environment. This is why most workplaces are now incorporating ergonomics into their operations and environment to enjoy its benefits (Middlesworth).

Dangerous workplaces are a good example of how ergonomics can help ensure the safety of their workers without sacrificing productivity. One example of such a workplace is the oil industry. The oil industry is in charge of collecting, refining, and distributing oils such as petroleum and gasoline. It is a dangerous industry because oils are highly flammable substances which can ignite from just a simple spark. If caution is not practiced, explosions can occur which can endanger the lives of the humans working in that place. Other problems in the oil industry workplace are hard physical work, back pain, discomfort, hot environment, long shifts, and diverse schedules (Shikdar 2004). If these problems are not addressed, employees will become unsatisfied and eventually develop health problems which can affect their work and increase costs for the company through medical bills.

Another industry which makes use of ergonomics to ensure worker safety and productivity is the gas industry. The main function of the gas industry is to obtain natural gas and deliver it to users through the creation of interstate pipelines which connect with local distribution companies. These local distribution companies are in charge of selling the natural gas to consumers. Some of the problems that workers in this industry face are fatigue, harsh environments, exposure to chemicals, and even hazardous noise levels.

Ergonomics is necessary in these two industries to ensure that the environment, processes, protocols, tools, and instruments used will guarantee the safety of their workers. Several ways in which this is done is through the creation of human factor integration plans, human machine interfaces, design of facilities and control rooms, design and creation of a process management system, and human factor awareness training (Atkins Global). Human machine interfaces are the points in a system or an equipment where the machine and the human interact. These interfaces are important because they allows users to program how machines should do a certain process to get the desired results. Complicated interfaces can lead to incorrect programming, incorrect results, and waste of resources such as time and materials. In order to avoid these, human machine interfaces should be ergonomically designed so that they are easy to understand and use. This is important, especially in the oil and gas industry where constant analysis of the products obtained or being sold is necessary to assure quality. The interface should also allow users to troubleshoot problems that can arise within the machine so that they can be immediately addressed and fixed to avoid loss of time, effort, and money.

Process management systems are systems which handle all the activities related to a particular process. For example, in an oil refinery plant, the production of petroleum from crude oil, from the procurement of the raw materials to the bottling of the produced crude oil is one whole process. Careful guidance and management of these processes is necessary to ensure that only minimal problems will arise if one part of the process fails or produces incorrect results. This allows the workers to create effective solutions which will minimize waste of time and resources. Efficient process management systems should therefore be developed to address these concerns and needs. Ergonomics allows for the design and implementation of such systems guaranteeing an immediate and effective response to any errors in the processes handled by the system.

Human factor awareness training is also a very important ergonomic plan for workplaces because it increases awareness regarding human factors as well as provides information on the protocols used by the company to incorporate human factors in their daily operations. This shows workers the importance of following procedures and why these procedures were put in place. It can also be an opportunity for the collection of feedback from employees regarding the effectiveness of these ergonomic protocols. This training will also teach employees on how to use human machine interfaces as well as show them the proper ways to handle equipment to prevent injury.

Another way in which ergonomics can be applied to the oil and gas industry workplace is through the effective communication between the company and its vendors or engineering contractors (Atkins Global). The company should make them aware of their ergonomic protocols to ensure that outsiders who enter the workplace, especially workplaces in the oil and gas industry where the accident risk is high, are aware of the ways they should act and respond in order to prevent any harm from befalling them. This can also help them prevent mistakes while in the oil or gas industry workplace which can help avoid any problems or accidents.

Engineering contractors, especially the ones who are tasked with building the facilities and control rooms, should be informed on how to construct these facilities so that they adhere with the ergonomic design of the workplace. The importance of this ergonomic design should be impressed onto these contractors so that they will take care to prevent mistakes and immediately correct any that may materialize.

The development of the standard operating procedures of a workplace should also be done with ergonomics being kept in mind because these procedures dictate how work is to be carried out and how employees should behave in the workplace (Atkins Global). The benefits of creating good standard working procedures are the following: an increase in productivity because guidelines are set on how work should be done, decrease work-related mistakes, allow for the regular evaluation of work activity which facilitates growth, and reduces system variation (Grusenmeyer). Standard operating procedures also contain an emergency preparedness section which can help guide employees on how to act and respond when an accident occurs in the workplace as well as how to train and prepare them for such instances. This guarantees that workers remain alert and helps create a safe work environment. Another section that should be in the standard operating procedures is the management of employee workload.

This is important because it is one of the leading causes of decrease in productivity and efficiency of employees in the workplace and can even pose threats to their health, especially in businesses such as the oil and gas industry. Too much work can cause employees to work longer hours to be able to finish their workload by the deadline. This can lead to stress which results to poor performance and even poor health. All of this makes it more likely for mistakes to occur, and these mistakes can lead to accidents. Proper workload management, and even fatigue management is necessary to avoid these consequences. Distribution of the workload and a shift-working pattern can help prevent these kinds of scenarios from occurring.

One example of how such ergonomics is applied in the oil and gas industry workplace is the Occupational Health and Risk Management Ergonomic Factors code of practice applied by Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation. This code of practice was implemented using two phases dealing with the development of ergonomic protocols and assessment of the facilities of the company and the subsequent application of these protocols to day to day operations. The company hired certified professional ergonomists to identify the risk factors that exist in their workplace. These risk factors were then analyzed and processes were developed to address these risks and to train relevant personal to identify and respond to such risks (Roth 2006).

Another example is the Norwegian Oil and Gas Ergonomic Guidelines for the offshore industry. This handbook summarizes the necessary requirements a company must meet in order to be able to build and operate an offshore oil or gas facility. The handbook includes definitions of necessary terms such as manning, and the general sizes of equipment to be used such as gangways, kitchens, recreation areas, and work areas. It also states what should be contained and installed in those areas to ensure worker safety and security(Norwegian Oil and Gas Association).

Ergonomics is a very important science because it produces designs and protocols which facilitate the creation of a safe, secure, productive, and healthy workplace. One of the most important applications of ergonomics is in the workplace of oil and gas industries. It can be used to develop standard operating procedures and process safety management systems which guarantee that employees in the oil and gas industry will be able to work efficiently and in a safe environment. Care in the design and implementation of such protocols should be done to ensure that the goals of these protocols are met.

Anthropometry in Oil and Gas


Anthropometry came from the Greek word anthros meaning man and metron meaning measure. Hence, anthropometry deals with the study of taking the measurements and dimension of the human body in order to make inferences in the differences and variation between groups or even individuals inside a group. Anthropometry does not only deal with the actual sizes of human body, but may also encompass other measurable variables such as strength and body weight. Anthropometry is often one of the most neglected category or field of study under ergonomics compared with other topics. However, once paid with sufficient attention, anthropometry has the capacity to improve not only the performance of the crew but also the safety and comfort ofthe workers (Wickens, 2003 and Panero, 1979).

Anthropometrics is a key element in designing not only in designing furniture, but also in building workspaces in fields.Anthropometrics must be specially considered in designing workplaces especially in naval vehicles that can be used for oil and gas exploration. Inappropriate anthropometric design can lead to poorly designed workplaces where most of Asian crew personnel are incapable of reaching handles of valves or control buttons in engine rooms or even control rooms that has been designed for taller Caucasian crew members. Maintenance equipment can also be poorly placed in a sector that is not very much accessible to the point where it is usually used. There are also reports were truck drivers have accidentally stepped on acceleration pedals while they are wearing their work boots because of insufficient clearance between the brake pedals and the accelerator (Freier, 2010). Other poorly anthropometric designs includetoo large computer keyboards that provides stressful working condition for the worker. BMT Designers and Planners also reported the survival craft on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. They said, these vessels had seat widths that are too small for crew members and had been already inappropriate in terms of weight capacity (BMT, 2007). It is not only in vehicles and workplace area where anthropometry serves a good purpose but also in military. In 1967, Hart remarked the difficulty of Korean soldiers in handling M-1 riffles that have been designed for the US Army (Hart, 1967)

A good body mechanics identify the best practices that must be observed for increased productivity, safety and comfort. One of which is arranging displays in such a way that it would facilitate easy reading, especially adjusting height of the material in order to get the most comfortable viewing that is within the normal line of sight. Part of good mechanics also put any controls or valve in a height that is in between the shoulders and the hips in order to facilitate easy reaching and manipulation. However, the problem with body mechanics is that it is too general. That is, it identifies the good practices common to all humans regardless of population. Anthropometrics addresses the dimensional differences between population, which often vary from one population to another, and even across individuals in that population. For example, body mechanics identifies the minimum comfortable distance in viewing as well as the angular lines of sight that is preferred by human eyes. However, anthropometrics acknowledges that though the angle may remain constant, the height of the individuals while sitting or standing will differ among populations thus varying the height of the display.

There are several anthropometric data that are needed to be collected in order to get the variables that would represent the given population. These data have been used for designs of vessels and ships for oil rigs, though accuracy differ in its collection, the designer should approach each given data with care and caution in order to get the most out of the given data. MoD has given a set of standard anthropometric data that is most often than not collected and considered as factors for designs of system. These are the height of a person while sitting, as well as other variables while sitting including eye height, shoulder and elbow rest height; thigh clearance and stool height; functional and vertical reach; abdominal depth; knee height; buttock-popliteal and buttock-knee length; inter-elbow span; standing shoulder height; waist circumference; crotch height; hip breadth; elbow functional reach; stature; standing eye height; standing elbow height; bideltoid breadth; body breadth at elbow; foot breadth; foot length; hand breadth; hand length; wrist circumference; head breadth; head length; head circumference; bitragion arc; tragion to vertex and pupil to vertex length. MoD also ensured the proper definition of each data that has to be collected. For example, it was cleared out in the material that pupil to vertex length pertained to the distance between the pupil and top of the person’s head. (MoD, 2004)

Collected data of anthropometric measures are usually presented in such a way that it can easily be interpreted and used by designers of systems. With the significant amount of data to be collected across the population of the target users,presentation deemed to be a very challenging tasks. Data are usually presented in percentiles rather than average. Values that are at 5th and 95th percentile are usually given to indicate that the given figure marks the lower limit where 5% of the population had elicited a lower value than the given or 95% of the population does not exceed the given figure respectively. Statistical measures are also usually presented in order to present the validity of the data as well as its spread. (Ross)

Oil and Gas UK identifies the importance of anthropometric surveys in determining the size and shape of their offshore workforce. In partnership with Robert Gordon University, they had developed a system that would measure size and shape of their offshore workforce in order to perform ergonomic designs in their systems as well as improve the health and safety of the workplace. Through the project, they were able to elicit a database that displays the size and shape database representative of their crew and develop a good system that would be sustainable in the future. The partnership has been pushed since the last size and shape survey has been conducted to offshore workers was still in 1985. Traditional anthropometry was still used back then and only 419 male offshore workers were only the subject of the study. According to Big Persons in their study conducted in 2009, the average size of an offshore worker has already increased by 19%, and usually male offshore workers are 14% heavier compared with normal men (Robinette, 2002).

This is an important consideration in the present since assessment exams such as medical clearance only assess health of the workforce and does not really takes into account the size and shape of the individual. In order to assess if body weight is associated with changes in the workforce’s size and shape, the researchers had used portable 3D scanning technique instead of traditional anthropometry. The technology has already been used by animators for years and has only been recently utilized for this purpose. 3D scanning allows collection of data without the hassle of asking people to line up and one by one get their measurements. 3D scanning allows collection of data while the person is at work and makes way for post processing to occur at a later date. Approximately 600 men in the workforce were the subjects of the study, scans were made during different postural positions, as well as while wearing tight fitting clothes and survival clothes. It was noted that there was a 71.3% increase in volume of the crew members when they had to wear survival suits which increases their space requirements by 101.9%. The study has then provided insights on the collection of data to fit in offshore requirements as well as to serve as basis for ergonomics design (Ledingham, nd).

On the other hand, Pastura has also developed a system of 1D and 3D anthropometric data application that can be applied both on public transportation and in oil and gas laboratories. The authors had pooled data from existing 1D and 3D anthropometric data and were applied to develop designs that would be useful in creating layouts for vehicular designs in public transportation. Moreover, they had also used these data in order to be applied in environment designs of gas and oil laboratories. The research has demonstrated the importance of the data application in providing insights for designers of such environment that would aid them in decision making. (Pastura., et al., 2012)

As seen, anthropometry is and important aspect that is needed to be considered in workplace environment design especially in oil and gas laboratories and field where safety and health is of primary importance. Moreover, these settings proves to be demanding in terms of efficiency and output, which again can be further improved by sound designs aided by anthropometry.

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