The impact of tool selection on back and wrist injury risk in tying steel reinforcement bars: a single case experiment

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Helen Lingard
Isaac Selva Raj
Noel Lythgo
Olga Troynikov
Chris Fitzgerald


The paper explores the risk of work-related musculoskeletal injury in tying steel reinforcement bars. Three tools are compared to determine the extent to which ergonomic tools can reduce the risk of injury to the back and wrist in steel-tying. A whole body system of wearable sensors was used to measure biomechanical risk in tying. Three tools were assessed to determine their impact on the risk of work-related musculoskeletal injury when used at different heights. These were: a conventional pincer-cutting tool; a power-driven tying tool, and a long handled stapler tool.

No tool was found to work best in all situations. The long handled stapler tool significantly reduced trunk inclination when used from ground to shoulder height, but produced higher trunk extension (backward bending) when used above shoulder height. The power tying tool did not reduce the need to bend when working at lower work heights. The power-tying tool produced significantly lower peak wrist flexion values compared to the conventional pincer-cutter tool at all work heights except overhead. The power tying tool involved significantly lower levels of wrist rotation than the conventional pincer-cutter tool at all work heights above knee level.

Many assessments of ergonomic risk factors in construction rely on observational methods. The use of small, lightweight wearable sensors permits the objective measurement of biomechanical risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal injury, as well as providing objective performance data that can be used in the design and selection of task-specific tools. Our analysis of work by height also provides insight into the way in which risk factors and reduction opportunities afforded by different tools vary depending on the height at which work is to be performed.

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