Assessment and design of industrial manual handling to reduce physical ergonomics hazards : – use and development of assessment tools

Abstract: Despite efforts of reducing harmful physical ergonomics exposures related to manual handling, the occurrence of heavy or repetitive manual handling, and non-neutral postures is high in many occupational sectors. To reduce these exposures, interventions and job design strategies can utilize risk assessment. A need was identified of an observation-based tool which supported occupational health and safety practitioners for assessments of risk factors related to manual handling.The aim of this thesis was to explore the use and important usability-related aspects of observation-based assessment tools among professional ergonomists, and to develop new research based assessment and screening tools, to present their scientific basis and to evaluate their reliability and usability. A web-based questionnaire was employed to gain knowledge on the use and usability aspects of risk assessment tools among ergonomists in Sweden. The assessment tools RAMP I and RAMP II were developed in an iterative process, including literature searches, expert group judgments, and with input from more than 80 practitioners. The reliability and usability evaluations included assessments and ratings by practitioners.The thesis points to a low use of several internationally spread assessment tools among Swedish ergonomists, and a relatively higher use of tools promoted by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. Several usability-related aspects were identified as important, such as being easy and quick to use, its ability to communicate and visualize the results, and its ability to facilitate improvement measures. The developed tools support assessment of a broad range of risk factors related to manual handling. The thesis supports that assessments with acceptable reliability can be achieved for the majority of items of the two developed tools. The thesis supports that the tools are usable in supporting risk assessments targeting risk factors related to industrial manual handling.