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Ergonomics. 2018 Jun;61(6):853-865. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1417643. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Biomechanically determined hand force limits protecting the low back during occupational pushing and pulling tasks.

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a Spine Research Institute, The Ohio State University , Columbus , OH , USA.
b Department of Integrated Systems Engineering , The Ohio State University , Columbus , OH , USA.


Though biomechanically determined guidelines exist for lifting, existing recommendations for pushing and pulling were developed using a psychophysical approach. The current study aimed to establish objective hand force limits based on the results of a biomechanical assessment of the forces on the lumbar spine during occupational pushing and pulling activities. Sixty-two subjects performed pushing and pulling tasks in a laboratory setting. An electromyography-assisted biomechanical model estimated spinal loads, while hand force and turning torque were measured via hand transducers. Mixed modelling techniques correlated spinal load with hand force or torque throughout a wide range of exposures in order to develop biomechanically determined hand force and torque limits. Exertion type, exertion direction, handle height and their interactions significantly influenced dependent measures of spinal load, hand force and turning torque. The biomechanically determined guidelines presented herein are up to 30% lower than comparable psychophysically derived limits and particularly more protective for straight pushing. Practitioner Summary: This study utilises a biomechanical model to develop objective biomechanically determined push/pull risk limits assessed via hand forces and turning torque. These limits can be up to 30% lower than existing psychophysically determined pushing and pulling recommendations. Practitioners should consider implementing these guidelines in both risk assessment and workplace design moving forward.


Force limit; lumbar spine; psychophysical; turn

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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