Methods for identifying MSD hazards and assessing the risk associated with them have been classified into one of four categories. These categories are intended to guide a user to the best method based on their purpose, experience and their type of work and workplace.
A key function of a Hazard Identification tool is to promote discussion amongst workers, supervisors and managers and others with knowledge about the work. Therefore they may usually be used with minimal training or prior experience. The Detailed Screening tools require some familiarity. The Observational Evaluation methods usually require background knowledge and skill in order to use them in a repeatable and interpretable way. The Comprehensive Analysis tools require substantial knowledge and experience to use and to interpret their outputs and only ergonomists or others with the specialized knowledge and experience will use these tools.
We suggest using our Tool Picker below as a starting point to select appropriate methods.
Hazard identification or hazard recognition tools may contain a list of questions with yes/no or checkbox style responses or may contain diagrams or descriptions of postures, frequencies, or loads. The key point is to promote discussion amongst workers, supervisors and managers and others with knowledge about the work.
It has been well said that:
“This identification must be carried out internally, by people in the company who know perfectly the work situation, even if they have little qualification in safety, physiology or ergonomics. These people are the workers themselves, their immediate technical management, the employer itself in the small companies, with an internal OH[S] practitioner, if available, in a medium-sized or large company.” - (Malchaire, J. B., 2004)
Examples: Kodak Ergonomics Checklist, Keyserling Screening Checklist
A Detained Screening tool typically contains a list of questions with either yes/no or multiple-choice style responses to note the presence or absence of an MSD hazard and some of its characteristics. The tool may also function as a Simple Risk Assessment. They typically have questions grouped by risk type (eg. high load, repetition, awkward postures). They may give a threshold for load magnitude, movement frequency, or joint angle in order to assess the task and help prioritize the hazards. Promoting discussion amongst workers, supervisors and managers and others with knowledge about the work is important. An observational evaluation or a comprehensive analysis may be required if the hazard, its elimination or control is not clearly understood after using this type of tool.
Examples: Washington State Checklists, Quick Exposure Checklist
An Observation Evaluation tool is an assessment of a specific job or task using body posture or movement frequency information. These tools typically use thresholds to define posture- or task-specific scores. Many of these tools generate a score. Some description of the level of risk or intervention priority is often associated with that score.
Examples: OCRA Concise Exposure Method, Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA)
A Comprehensive Analysis requires detailed information about the job and task analysis background for appropriate use and interpretation. These methods use quantitative task information (duty cycle/frequency, working heights, reach distances, joint postures). The output may be compared to a threshold to help determine risk associated with the tasks. A score is generated for the task or job which can guide priorities for intervention. They can usually be used for detailed analysis and comparison of the current situation compared to a proposed intervention.
Examples: NIOSH Lifting Equation, Liberty Mutual Manual Material Handling Tables
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