Assessment of working postures by observation is a common practice in ergonomics. The present study investigated whether monetary resources invested in a video-based posture observation study should preferably be spent in collecting many video recordings of the work and have them observed once by one observer, or in having multiple observers rate postures repeatedly from fewer videos. The study addressed this question from a practitioner's perspective by focusing two plausible scenarios: documenting the mean exposure of one individual, and of a specific occupational group. Using a data set of observed working postures among hairdressers, empirical values of posture variability, observer variability, and costs for recording and observing one video were entered into equations expressing the total cost of data collection and the information (defined as 1/SD) provided by the resulting estimates of two variables: percentage time with the arm elevated <15° and >90°. Sixteen measurement strategies involving 1-4 observers repeating their posture ratings 1-4 times were examined for budgets up to €2000. For both posture variables and in both the individual and group scenario, the most cost-efficient strategy at any specific budget was to engage 3-4 observers and/or having observer(s) rate postures multiple times each. Between 17% and 34% less information was produced when using the commonly practiced approach of having one observer rate a number of video recordings one time each. We therefore recommend observational posture assessment to be based on video recordings of work, since this allows for multiple observations; and to allocate monetary resources to repeated observations rather than many video recordings.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd and The Ergonomics Society. All rights reserved.