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Title: Evaluation of biomechanical risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders and fall injuries among construction workers
Authors: Antwi-Afari, Maxwell Fordjour
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2019
Abstract: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) represent major health issues for construction workers (e.g., rebar workers), yet biomechanical risk factors associated with repetitive lifting tasks, which have detrimental effects on loss of balance and may contribute towards non-fatal fall injuries, remain unexplored. While wearable sensor-based systems have shown promising potentials in risk assessment for WMSDs, scant research has been conducted on using direct measurement sensors such as surface electromyography (sEMG), inertial measurement units (IMUs), and wearable insole pressure sensors to avoid and minimize the exposure of construction workers biomechanical risks. Moreover, the current risk assessment methods of WMSDs (e.g., self-reports and observational-based methods) are subjective and require complicated analysis to identify risk factors for WMSDs. Consequently, there is a crucial need to introduce effective and practical solutions for identifying potential biomechanical risk factors which may lead to WMSDs and non-fatal fall injuries among construction workers. The present study aims to evaluate biomechanical risk factors for WMSDs and non-fatal fall injuries among construction workers. The main objectives of this research study are set to: summarize musculoskeletal symptoms (MSS) prevalence in different construction trades, gender and age groups, which may help develop specific ergonomic interventions; examine the current trends, different types and research topics related to the applications of sensing and warning-based technology for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) through the analysis of articles published between 1996 and 2017 (years inclusive); evaluate the effects of lifting weights, and postures on spinal biomechanics (i.e., muscle activity and muscle fatigue) during a simulated repetitive lifting task undertaken within a strictly controlled laboratory experimental environment; examine the self-reported discomfort and spinal biomechanics (muscle activity and spinal kinematics) experienced by rebar workers; propose a novel approach and efficient method to automatically detect and classify construction workers' awkward working postures based on foot plantar pressure distribution measured by wearable insole pressure system; evaluate the effects of different weights and lifting postures on balance control using simulated repetitive lifting tasks; and develop a method to detect and classify loss of balance events based on foot plantar pressure distributions data captured using wearable insole pressure sensors.
Based on well-established research methods, participants performed simulated repetitive lifting tasks, awkward working postures and loss of balance events in a controlled laboratory setting. During the experiments, trunk muscle activity, spinal kinematics, and foot plantar pressure distribution data were recorded using sEMG, IMUs, and wearable insole pressure sensors, respectively. The key findings of this research indicate that (1) workers frequently involved in risk factors such as lifting weights, lifting durations, and lifting postures during repetitive lifting tasks may increase their risk of developing WMSDs; (2) lifting different weights causes disproportional loading upon muscles, which shortens the time to reach working endurance and increases the risk of developing low back disorders (LBDs) among rebar workers; (3) developing an automated wearable insole pressure system could assist researchers and construction managers in understanding the contributing role of workers' awkward working postures as an informative source of data for WMSDs prevention in construction; (4) repetitive lifting of heavier weights would significantly jeopardize individuals' balance control on unstable supporting surfaces, which may heighten the risk of non-fatal fall injuries; and (5) foot plantar pressure distribution data contain valuable information relating to specific loss of balance events, which can be used to understand the causes of falls on the same level in a timely manner. This current study presents the first laboratory-based simulated testing conducted to investigate the risk factors for WMSDs primarily caused by repetitive lifting tasks and manual handling. As such, it contributes to an identified need to study laboratory-based simulated tasks conducted to investigate the risk of developing LBDs among rebar workers primarily caused by repetitive rebar lifting. In addition, this study substantiated the feasibility of using a wearable insole pressure system to identify risk factors for developing WMSDs and could help safety managers eliminate workers' exposure to awkward working postures on construction sites. Furthermore, it provides preliminary and invaluable information to researchers and practitioners seeking to develop practical interventions to reduce the developing WMSDs among construction workers (e.g., masons, rebar workers) involved in repetitive lifting tasks. Collectively, the proposed approach can serve as an automated risk assessment tool that allows practitioners to take proactive actions to eliminate the fundamental causes of WMSDs and non-fatal fall injuries among construction workers.
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Construction workers -- Health and hygiene
Musculoskeletal system -- Diseases
Occupational diseases -- Prevention
Pages: xxix, 280 pages : color illustrations
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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