Development and evaluation of an observational method for assessing repetition in hand tasks

Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1997 Apr;58(4):278-85. doi: 10.1080/15428119791012793.


Several physical stressors, including repetitive, sustained, and forceful exertions, awkward postures, localized mechanical stress, highly dynamic movements, exposures to low temperatures, and vibration have been linked to increased risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Repetitive exertions have been among the most widely studied of these stressors, but there is no single metric for assessing exposure to repetitive work. A new methodology enables repetitive hand activity to be rated based on observable characteristics of manual work. This method uses a series of 10-cm visual-analog scales with verbal anchors and benchmark examples. Ratings for repetition reflect both the dynamic aspect of hand movements and the amount of recovery or idle hand time. Trained job analysis experts rate the jobs individually and then agree on ratings. For a group of 33 jobs, repetition ratings using this system were compared to measurements of recovery time within the cycle, exertion counts, and cycle time. Amount of recovery time within the job cycle was found to be significantly correlated with the analysis ratings (r2 = 0.58), as were the number of exertions per second (r2 = 0.53). Cycle time was not related to the analyst ratings. Repeated analyses using the new method were performed 1 1/2 to 2 years apart on the same jobs with the same group of raters. Ratings for repetition differed less than 1 point (on the 10-cm scale), on average, among the different sessions. These results indicate that the method is sensitive to exertion level and recovery time, and that the decision criteria and benchmark examples allow for a consistent application of these methods over a period of time. This method of rating repetition can be combined with similar scales for other physical stressors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders
  • Ergonomics
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Task Performance and Analysis*