Many Korean workers are exposed to repetitive manual tasks or prolonged poor working postures that are closely related to back pain or symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders. Workers engage in tasks that require not only handling of heavy materials, but also assuming prolonged or repetitive non-neutral work postures. Poor work postures that have been frequently observed in the workplaces of shipbuilding shops, manufacturing plants, automobile assembly lines and farms often require prolonged squatting, repetitive arm raising and wrist flexion and simultaneous trunk flexion and lateral bending. In most manufacturing industries, workers have to assume improper work postures repetitively, several hundreds of times per day depending on daily production rate. A series of psychophysical laboratory experiments were conducted to evaluate the postural load at various joints. A postural load assessment system was then developed based on a macro-postural classification scheme. The classification scheme was constructed based on perceived discomfort for various joint motions as well as previous research outcomes. On the basis of the perceived discomfort, postural stress levels for the postures at individual joints were also defined by a ratio scale to the standing neutral posture. Laboratory experiments simulating automobile assembly tasks were carried out to investigate the relationship between body-joint and whole-body discomfort. Results showed a linear relationship between the two types of discomfort, with the shoulder and low back postures being the dominant factor in determining the whole body postural stresses. The proposed method was implemented into a computer software program in order to automate the procedure of analysing postural load and to enhance usability and practical applicability.
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