Assessment of workload and arm position during different work sequences: a study with portable devices on construction workers

Appl Ergon. 1999 Dec;30(6):495-503. doi: 10.1016/s0003-6870(99)00016-2.


It is recognised that work related shoulder pain is overrepresented among construction workers compared to other occupations. Studies have shown that working with hands above shoulder level increases the shoulder load. Most studies have been confined to the laboratory. The present project was carried out to map the muscular engagement and postures of construction workers undertaking ceiling fitting, and to compare the results to those of the laboratory studies. Two ambulatory devices were used, one allowing recording of electromyographic (EMG) signals bilaterally from the trapezius muscle, and the other to record the position of both arms and back by means of measuring the angles between the vertical line and the back and both upper arms. These recordings were performed during 1.5-2 h work sequences. The results show that the work was mostly performed in an upright position, that both arms were used to a similar amount and that the workers for a large proportion of their working time had their upper arms at levels that are considered harmful in view of shoulder load. The EMG data showed that nearly 50% of the work was spent with trapezius activity that exceeded that of the reference contraction used (about 15% of maximal voluntary contraction) and that the time spent in muscular relaxation was 10%. It was concluded that the exposure of construction workers undertaking ceiling fitting meets the criteria formulated on the basis of laboratory experiments with respect to a high risk of acquiring chronic shoulder pain, due to rotator cuff tendinitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry / instrumentation
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Electromyography / instrumentation
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Job Description
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupations*
  • Posture*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • Time Factors
  • Time and Motion Studies*
  • Videotape Recording
  • Workload*