Assessment of physical work load in epidemiologic studies: common measurement metrics for exposure assessment

Ergonomics. 1997 Jan;40(1):51-61. doi: 10.1080/001401397188369.


There are many possible means of determining exposure ranging from self-reports of physical exposure to measures of muscle activations and estimated spinal loads. In epidemiologic studies, issues of validity make instrumented measures preferable, however issues of cost and practicability tend to force investigators to less costly but less valid and less reliable measures of exposure, such as self-report questionnaires. This paper presents a method by which estimates of exposure from self-report questionnaires, expert observers, work sampling, video analysis and electromyograms can be reported in a common metric, Newtons of force on a tissue, and show, as an example of its application, estimation of spinal compression on auto workers. A common metric allows a flexible approach to selection of measurement methods in occupational settings: no matter which instrument is used the results can be combined to provide an overall picture of exposure. This approach to exposure assessment for the low back allows for comparability across studies and settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Automobiles
  • Back / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Epidemiologic Methods*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires