Comprehensive manual handling limits for lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying activities

Ergonomics. 1997 Nov;40(11):1183-200. doi: 10.1080/001401397187432.


The objective of this study was to develop a set of mathematical models for manual lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying activities that would result in establishing load capacity limits to protect the lower back against occupational low-back disorders. In order to establish safe guidelines, a three-stage process was used. First, psychophysical data was used to generate the models' discounting factors and recommended load capacities. Second, biomechanical analysis was used to refine the recommended load capacities. Third, physiological criteria were used to validate the models' discounting factors. Both task and personal factors were considered in the models' development. When compared to the results from prior psychophysical research for these activities, the developed load capacity values are lower than previously established limits. The results of this study allowed the authors to validate the hypothesis proposed and tested by Karwowski (1983) that states that the combination of physiological and biomechanical stresses should lead to the overall measure of task acceptability or the psychophysical stress. This study also found that some of the discounting factors for the task frequency parameters recommended in the prior psychophysical research should not be used as several of the high frequency factors violated physiological limits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back Injuries / physiopathology
  • Back Injuries / prevention & control
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reference Values
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*