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Using handheld computers to record workplace observations in real-time.

Fotta-B; Jurovcik-P; Reinke-D
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 8-13, 2004, Atlanta, Georgia. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2004 May; :67-68
Observing and recording workplace activities and worker behaviors in real-time (time-activity studies) can be a powerful tool for identifying the determinants of exposure. However, the difficulties inherent in hand recording, editing, and coding observational data can limit both its utility and effectiveness as an aid in exposure assessments. These limitations became particularly evident during a noise exposure assessment of drill rig operators working at surface mines, where rapid changes in drilling operations and rig operator behaviors occurred simultaneously or in quick succession. In response to these limitations, a feasibility study examined an alternative method of collecting observational data using a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) and an observational software system, originally developed to record animal behaviors. Using this system, a data acquisition file was created by entering nine rig activities and five worker behaviors that were of interest to record. By installing this file onto a PDA, field observations were easily captured by touching a stylus to the appropriate screen display of predefined behaviors or rig activities to turn them on or off. The resultant file of observations and times of occurrence were downloaded into a spreadsheet. Using a standard statistical software package, each of the 14 different behaviors were converted to dichotomous variables with values recorded at one-second intervals denoting whether the behavior was on (value of one) or off (value of zero). By merging the observational variables with personal noise dosimetry readings in time, the resultant combined data file was easily manipulated to generate graphic and statistical analyses to assess the relationship between observational events and variations in noise exposure. In conclusion, the use of PDAs to record workplace behaviors and events in real-time improves the consistency, accuracy, and breadth of observations, and enhances their utility as an aid in identifying the determinants of exposure.
Workplace-monitoring; Workplace-studies; Occupational-exposure; Noise-exposure; Surface-mining; Dosimetry; Statistical-analysis
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 8-13, 2004, Atlanta, Georgia
Page last reviewed: March 11, 2019
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division