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Conclusion; Physical Strength Assessment In Ergonomics
  • Published Date:
    1/1/1998
Filetype[PDF - 41.27 KB]


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  • Description:
    In spite of advances in measurement techniques and an explosive increase in the volume of research, our understanding of human strength remains in its introductory stages. It is clear that muscle strength is a highly complex and variable function that depends on a large number of factors. It is not surprising, therefore, that large differences in strength exist not only between individuals, but even within the same individual tested repeatedly on a given piece of equipment. The issue is compounded by the fact that correlations of strength among different muscle groups in the same individual are generally low, and tests of isometric strength do not necessarily reflect the strength an individual might exhibit in a dynamic test. As a result of these and other influences, great care needs to be exercised in designing, evaluating, reporting, and interpreting muscular strength assessments. Traditionally, tests of muscular strength were in the domain of the orthopaedist, physical therapist, and exercise physiologist. Such tests are also an important tool for the ergonomist, however, because of the high strength demands on workers in manual materials-handling tasks. In some cases, task demands may approach or even exceed the strength that an individual is voluntarily willing to exert in a test of strength. In such cases, evidence suggests that the likelihood of injury is significantly greater than when the task demands lie well within an individual's strength capacity. Because the relationship among strength capabilities, job demands, and musculoskeletal injury has been established, it is apparent that tests of muscular strength may benefit the ergonomist both in designing jobs and in ensuring that individuals have sufficient strength to safely perform physically demanding jobs. Several strength assessment techniques have been employed for these purposes, each possessing unique characteristics and applicability to job design and worker selection procedures. Our main purpose has been to elucidate these strengths and weaknesses, so that tests of strength may be properly applied in designing jobs and selecting workers. One of the crucial points we have emphasized is that any test of strength used in job design or worker selection must be directly related to the demands of the job.(1) For example, if an occupational lifting task has a high dynamic component, a test of isometric strength is not likely to provide the data necessary for proper design of the job. Of course, dynamic strength tests would also be misapplied in assessing a job requiring isometric exertions. Another potential pitfall is using tests of strength on isolated muscle groups and assuming that they are indicative of whole-body strength. For example, one might mistakenly assume that dynamic trunk extension strength represents a person's capability to perform a lifting task. However, an individual's lifting capacity may be entirely unrelated to trunk extension strength. It may, instead, be limited by an individual's arm or leg strength, depending on the task being performed. A final point on strength assessment should be made. An individual's strength capability cannot be considered a fixed human attribute. Strength training regimens can increase an individual's strength capability by 30%-40%. Whether

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