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Physical factors case study: reducing hazards during highway tunnel construction.

Buchholz-B; Paquet-VL
Ergonomics in Health Care and Rehabilitation. V. J. Berg Rice, ed., Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998; :187-203
During many manual construction activities, workers are exposed to designs that are not ergonomically configured; that is, the designs do not fit the characteristics and capabilities of the workers. Thus, hazardous exposures exist that increase workers' risk for developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. An evaluation of the job tasks involved in the ceiling-panel assembly operation in the third harbor tunnel of the Central Artery tunnel (CA/T) construction project in Boston was carried out to identify and reduce the hazards of the tasks involved. Each assembly operation employed 10 iron workers, each of whom performed one of four job tasks. The researchers divided each job task into activities and evaluated each activity for hazards using a systematic ergonomic job analysis. This analysis was used to identify the potentially hazardous activities and to list the work-related causes of the hazards (equipment or tool design, work organization). In the analysis, hazards were identified for the trunk, legs, shoulders, hands, wrists, and neck. These hazards included repetitive motions of the wrist and arms, forceful whole-body and hand exertions, awkward body postures, and localized contact stresses. The most frequently observed hazards were static, nonneutral body postures induced by low work heights, heavy pushing of ceiling panels on the assembly line, and forceful, repetitive hand movements with contact stresses during bolting activities. Recommendations for the redesign of the assembly line to reduce the hazards were suggested. An operation was subsequently developed at a different location in the tunnel that was identical to the first, with the exception of having several of the recommended design changes. A follow-up evaluation on the redesigned operation found that approximately 43% of the previously identified hazards had been eliminated or reduced. This study demonstrates how hazards can be systematically evaluated and reduced with relatively simple and inexpensive interventions for the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries.
Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Ergonomics; Work-analysis; Repetitive-work; Construction-workers; Construction-industry; Tunnel-workers; Tunneling; Physical-capacity; Work-capability
Publication Date
Document Type
Book or book chapter
Berg Rice-VJ
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement; Construction
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
Priority Area
Source Name
Ergonomics in Health Care and Rehabilitation
Performing Organization
Center to Protect Workers' Rights