J Agric Saf Health. 2018 Jan 29;24(1):43-52. doi: 10.13031/jash.12453.


Agricultural workers perform tasks that frequently require awkward and extreme postures that are associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The PATH (Posture, Activity, Tools, Handling) system currently provides a sound methodology for quantifying workers' exposure to these awkward postures on an ordinal scale of measurement, which places restrictions on the choice of analytic methods. This study reports a modification of the PATH methodology that instead captures these postures as degrees of flexion, an interval-scaled measurement. Rather than making live observations in the field, as in PATH, the postural assessments were performed on photographs using ImageJ photo analysis software. Capturing the postures in photographs permitted more careful measurement of the degrees of flexion. The current PATH methodology requires that the observer in the field be trained in the use of PATH, whereas the single photographer used in this modification requires only sufficient training to maintain the proper camera angle. Ultimately, these interval-scale measurements could be combined with other quantitative measures, such as those produced by electromyograms (EMGs), to provide more sophisticated estimates of future risk for MSDs. Further, these data can provide a baseline from which the effects of interventions designed to reduce hazardous postures can be calculated with greater precision.

Keywords: Ergonomic assessment; Farmworkers; Interval-scaled data; Musculoskeletal disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Agriculture / methods
  • Ergonomics
  • Farmers*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Health
  • Posture*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sprains and Strains / etiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis