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Identification of potential biomechanical risk factors for low back disorders during repetitive rebar lifting

Maxwell Fordjour Antwi-Afari (Department of Building and Real Estate, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Heng Li (Department of Building and Real Estate, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
David John Edwards (Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE), Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Erika Anneli Pärn (Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE), Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
De-Graft Owusu-Manu (Department of Building Technology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana)
Joonoh Seo (Department of Building and Real Estate, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
Arnold Yu Lok Wong (Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

Construction Innovation

ISSN: 1471-4175

Article publication date: 23 February 2018

Issue publication date: 23 March 2018

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441

Abstract

Purpose

Work-related low back disorders (LBDs) are prevalent among rebar workers although their causes remain uncertain. The purpose of this study is to examine the self-reported discomfort and spinal biomechanics (muscle activity and spinal kinematics) experienced by rebar workers.

Design/methodology/approach

In all, 20 healthy male participants performed simulated repetitive rebar lifting tasks with three different lifting weights, using either a stoop (n = 10) or a squat (n = 10) lifting posture, until subjective fatigue was reached. During these tasks, trunk muscle activity and spinal kinematics were recorded using surface electromyography and motion sensors, respectively.

Findings

A mixed-model, repeated measures analysis of variance revealed that an increase in lifting weight significantly increased lower back muscle activity at L3 level but decreased fatigue and time to fatigue (endurance time) (p < 0.05). Lifting postures had no significant effect on spinal biomechanics (p < 0.05). Test results revealed that lifting different weights causes disproportional loading upon muscles, which shortens the time to reach working endurance and increases the risk of developing LBDs among rebar workers.

Research limitations/implications

Future research is required to: broaden the research scope to include other trades; investigate the effects of using assistive lifting devices to reduce manual handling risks posed; and develop automated human condition-based solutions to monitor trunk muscle activity and spinal kinematics.

Originality/value

This study fulfils an identified need to study laboratory-based simulated task conducted to investigate the risk of developing LBDs among rebar workers primarily caused by repetitive rebar lifting.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the Department of Building and Real Estate of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for funding this research. The authors thank Mr. Man Cheung and Mr. Kelvin Lam for their technical support and all the participants involved in this study. Special thanks are given to Mr Yang Xintao for assisting the experimental set-up.

To June Edwards (3/12/47-13/5/17) – a lady of great distinction, grace and elegance personified; loved by all and remembered forever.

Citation

Antwi-Afari, M.F., Li, H., Edwards, D.J., Pärn, E.A., Owusu-Manu, D.-G., Seo, J. and Wong, A.Y.L. (2018), "Identification of potential biomechanical risk factors for low back disorders during repetitive rebar lifting", Construction Innovation, Vol. 18 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/CI-05-2017-0048

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited