Comparison of self-report, video observation and direct measurement methods for upper extremity musculoskeletal disorder physical risk factors

Ergonomics. 2001 May 15;44(6):588-613. doi: 10.1080/00140130118050.


The prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders has become a national priority in many countries. Increasingly, attempts are made to quantify those exposures that increase risk in order to set exposure limit values. This study used commonly employed field measurement methods and tools in order to perform an inter-method comparison between three primary methods of risk factor exposure assessment: self-report questionnaires, observational video analysis and direct measurement. Extreme posture duration, repetition, hand force (estimated from electromyography) and movement velocity were assessed for 18 subjects while performing each of three jobs processing tree seedlings. Results indicated that self-reports were the least precise assessment method, which consistently overestimated exposures for each of the measured risk factors. However, adjustment of the reports as psychophysical scales may increase agreement on a group level. Wrist flexion/extension duration and repetition were best measured by electrogoniometer. Electrogoniometric measures of wrist deviation duration and frequency were less precise than video analysis. Forearm rotation duration and repetition, grip force and velocity appeared to be best quantified by direct measurement as measured by electrogoniometer and electromyography (EMG) (as root-mean-square amplitude). The results highlight the fact that it is as important to consider and report estimated measurement error in order to reduce potential exposure misclassification in epidemiologic studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography / instrumentation
  • Ergonomics
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / classification*
  • Posture
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Assessment
  • United States
  • Videotape Recording