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Anthropometry Research at NIOSH

Partnering with stakeholders, NIOSH has applied the most current 3-dimensional digital scanning technology and developed improved body-shape quantification methods to advance anthropometry research which has provided a variety of enhanced equipment design recommendations.

collage of images from anthropometry lab at NIOSHAnthropometry Laboratory
Changing human anthropometry (i.e., population composition, body size, body shape, and aging) in the American workforce requires that workplace layout, equipment, and personal protective devices be re-evaluated in order to accommodate diverse worker populations for effective injury prevention and control. NIOSH researchers have utilized the NIOSH Anthropometry Research Laboratory to collect and quantify human body size and shape of various occupational groups for use in developing improved equipment designs for worker protection.

The NIOSH Anthropometry Research Laboratory, which is equipped with a series of low-energy three-dimensional scanning devices, was developed in 1995 and remains among only a few research facilities worldwide with similar capabilities and advanced technologies. Four scanning systems (whole body, head, foot, and hand-held small object scanning) are available for use in a wide variety of research applications. The whole-body scanner has a resolution of 3 mm and requires only 17 seconds to complete a scan. The head scanner captures high resolution image of a subject’s head in just a few seconds. The foot scanner records a subject’s foot in 3-dimensional modes in a few second and reports linear dimensions of the foot as well. The hand held scanner can be used to capture small stationary objects (such as tools and hands) or large objects (such as cab interiors).

NIOSH scientists have developed a series of anthropometry study procedures for collecting anthropometry data, quantifying human body shape, and evaluating human-equipment interfaces for various protective equipment and workspace design applications.

collage of images from digital modeling lab at NIOSHDigital Modeling Laboratory
Changing human anthropometry (i.e., population composition, body size, body shape, and aging) in the American workforce requires that workplace layout, equipment, and personal protective devices be re-evaluated The Digital Human Modeling Laboratory is the NIOSH focal point for digital human model development and computerized human-system interface research. The software industry, academia, and research organizations regularly use updated digital human models for biomechanical simulations, various computational health research applications, and product design. This laboratory allows for the development of digital human models of occupational populations for the above mentioned applications. The occupational models have distinct body dimensional features as compared to the typical digital models of general civilian population and military personnel.

This laboratory incorporates high-end computer workstations and software applications for the establishment and analysis of digitized models of the human form. Software packages include JACK, Polyworks, ANSYS, ADAMS, 3DS Max, among others. The laboratory, which was developed in 1995, has developed a series of digital models of farm tractor operators, truck trailer drivers, fall-arrest harness users, and firefighters. The laboratory also has been used for other projects, such as farm tractor protective volume estimation, biomechanical assessment of lower extremity joint loading during drywall stilt use, development of truck driver body models for truck cab design, determination of eyewear protective coverage, design of ambulance compartments for emergency responders and patient safety, and fall-arrest harness fit assessments.

collage of images from mobile anthropometry lab at NIOSHMobile Anthropometry Laboratory
Like the in-house Anthropometry Research Laboratory, the Mobile Anthropometry Laboratory contains a whole body and head scanner mounted inside a 30 foot trailer. The mobile laboratory also houses foot and hand scanners and space for traditional measurement using calipers.

The mobile laboratory allows us to capture a broader demographic of workers from different geographic locations. Previous NIOSH studies on firefighters and truck drivers have revealed the difficulty in recruiting subjects who reside more than 30 miles away from data collection sites. This mobile data collection unit provides a solution to reach out to target worker populations in a time and cost effective manner for on-going and future projects. The trailer has been moved across the United States to capture different populations of workers, such as emergency medical service (EMS) workers.

Contact Person: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Chief, Protective Technology Branch
Phone: (304) 285-5910


use of firefighter anthropometric data for fire apparatus designSizing Firefighters and Fire Apparatus: Safe by Design
This project established a large-scale anthropometric database of U.S. firefighters for the design of ergonomically efficient automotive fire apparatus. Ergonomically sound fire apparatus helped reduce the exposure of firefighters to fatal and non-fatal injuries. The database consisted of anthropometric data for 900 firefighters and apparatus workspace data for 195 firefighters, who were selected as representative of the U. S. firefighter population in age, gender, and race/ethnicity. The database included traditional anthropometric measurements, digital scans in 5 postures, and fire-truck cab workspace measurements. Results from this study have been applied to the updating of relevant NFPA standards on fire apparatus and the design of fire-engine cabs, seats, restraint systems, egress, and firefighter bunker gear.

Project contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch, Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-5910
Project period: 2008-2012

A digital model of a truck driverImproved Truck Cab Design through Applied Anthropometry
The purpose of this project was to establish an anthropometric database of U.S. truck drivers for the design of ergonomically efficient truck cabs to reduce exposure to fatal and non-fatal injury hazards among U.S. truck drivers. The database, which is now current, consists of stratified anthropometric and workspace data for more than 1,300 truck drivers across the United States. The database includes traditional anthropometric measurements for 1,000 truck drivers, as well as digital scans and truck cab workspace measurements for an additional 200 truck drivers. This project engages major U.S. truck manufacturers to develop ergonomically efficient truck cabs. In addition, results from this study can be used to update relevant Society of Safety Engineers (SAE) standards for truck cab occupant environments.

Project contact: Jinhua Guan, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch, Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-6333
Project period: 2006–2011

A device for registering head and face forms in 3D formatsDevelopment of Computer-Aided Face-Fit Evaluation Methods
This project also developed computer-aided face-fit evaluation methods. A nationwide anthropometric survey of the heads and faces of U.S. workers was conducted. Using this data, new respirator fit test panels were developed. Headforms were also developed for testing respirators, safety glasses, and helmets. A new design approach using 3D data was developed and compared to the traditional approach using facial dimensions. Shape statistics were used to capture the variability in the actual shape of the faces. Outcomes included the establishment of new fit test panels for today’s U.S. workers; development of headforms, and incorporation of these panels and headforms into NIOSH and ISO respirator standards.

Project contact: Ziqing Zhuang, Ph.D.
Technology Research Branch, National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory
(412) 386-4055
Project period: 2001–2011

Assessing harness fit to workers using 3D scanning technologiesHarness Design and Sizing Effectiveness
This project developed a whole-body fall-arrest-harness sizing scheme and design to control hazards during falls from elevation. Human size data, extracted from an existing database of U.S. workers and four controlled laboratory studies on harness fit to construction workers, were used. Researchers also used three-dimensional anthropometry information to determine the sizing scheme and to develop torso/hip/thigh strap assemblies and rigging components that best enhanced the ability of the worker to select and use the harness. Partnering with harness manufacturers, the harness system has been validated for efficacy and introduced into prototyping for production. The research will help the construction and other industries to reduce the risk of injury that results from poor user fit, improper selection, and the failure to don the protective equipment properly.

Project contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910
Project period: 2002-2006

use of 3D digital human models for farm tractor cab designAnthropometry Criteria for the Design of Tractor Cabs and Protection Frames
This project investigated agriculture worker-tractor interfaces for safe tractor operation, using three-dimensional human- and tractor-scan information. Specifically, the project developed (1) approaches to quantify 3-D human shapes and sizing information for assessing machine and equipment accommodation level, (2) representative human body models for machine design applications, and (3) anthropometric criteria for the design of farming tractors and rollover protective structures (ROPS) to increase the safety of farming-tractor operation. The research results were shared with the SAE J2194 standard committee for possible revisions to the tractor-cab-dimension standard, which will have a potential impact on the design of next-generation tractor cabs for better protection of tractor/farming machine operators.

Project contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910
Project period: 2000-2003

Digital hand modeling for protective gloves sizing applicationsHand Anthropometry of Meat Processing Workers
This project studied hand anthropometry of workers for designing better fitting protective gloves. It collected and analyzed hand anthropometry of male and female meat processing workers measured at a pork processing plant in the United States, with an emphasis on the Hispanic subsample in the study population.

Project contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910
Project period: 2001-2006

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