Anthropometry is the science that defines physical measures of a person’s size, form, and functional capacities. As applied to occupational injury prevention, anthropometric measurements are used to evaluate the interaction of workers with tasks, tools, machines, vehicles, and personal protective equipment, especially in regard to determining degree of protection afforded against hazardous exposures, whether chronic or acute.
Importance of Anthropometry
Designs that are incompatible with normal anthropometric measurements of a workforce could result in undesired incidents. The misfit of a heavy equipment cabin to a worker could produce operator blind spots that expose workers on foot to struck by injuries. Inadequate length or configuration of seatbelts could lead to non use of seatbelts, which will affect post-crash survivability. Inadequate fit of personal protective equipment cannot provide workers with sufficient protection from health and injury exposures (Hsiao and Halperin, 1998). Existing data on the size and shape of industrial workers is sparse, at best. Because of the lack of anthropometric data for the general worker population, safety researchers have generally had to rely on data drawn from studies of military personnel, most of which was collected during the 1950s through the 1970s. However, substantial anthropometric variability exists among the various U.S. workforce populations, and they are quite different from the average military population. Industrial workers, such as the agriculture, truck driver, and firefighter workforces, are even anthropometrically very different from the average civilian population (Hsiao et al, 2002).
Diverse work forces in many occupations, as well as new roles for women in the workforce, require body size data for designing adequate workplaces, systems, and personal protective equipment. In the past, variance in body dimensions was typically reported as means and standard deviations for various body segments (Roebuck et al., 1975). This approach was successful in generating general, broad parameters for personal protective equipment (PPE) sizing but was deficient in generating the detailed fit information needed for workplace, PPE, and other equipment design.
Technological development in recent years has advanced the basic science of human size and shape studies in 3-dimensional forms (3D), and computer-generated human models are now available for anthropometric analysis. These advances in anthropometric science and computer-based human-form modeling have opened various research avenues for improving workplace and protective equipment design as well as anthropometric fit within complex systems.
Trends in Anthropometry Research
Anthropometric design procedures must take into consideration the large variation in dimensions from person to person and from population to population. In the research area of applied anthropometry, new initiatives have begun to collect 3D anthropometric data that will ultimately result in a better fit between workers and their tools, systems, and work environments.
Program contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910 HHsiao@cdc.gov
Hsiao, H., Halperin, W. E. (1998). Occupational Safety and Human Factors. In William N. Rom (Ed.), Environmental and Occupational Medicine (pp. 923-936). Philadelphia: Raven Publishers.
Hsiao, H., Long, D., Snyder, K. (2002). Anthropometric differences among occupational groups. Ergonomics, 45(2), 136-152.
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