by Stephen Bowden, Chartered Ergonomist for Morgan Maxwell
Ergonomic risk assessments, evaluations, checklists, and audits are a crucial tool in the ergonomics improvement process. They identify ergonomic hazards that subject the worker to the risk of developing serious MSDs (Musculoskeletal Disorders) and RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries) like muscle/tendon strain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. When you evaluate a unique job for specific ergonomic hazards, it’s important to use the right tool for the job considering the nature of the work involved and parts of the body laboured. Use the following guide to help you pick the tool appropriate for each circumstance.
→ Read more on the ergonomics link between work tasks and MSDs/RSIs for computer users, specifically: Computer Use & Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Is there a connection?
QUICK INDEX: Ergonomic risk assessments tools categorised by risk or section of body reviewed:
|Identifying current musculoskeletal disorders and risk (full body)||Body Mapping Tool
REBA (Rapid Entire Body Assessment)
QEC (Quick Exposure Checklist)
|Physical exertion (full body)||Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion|
|Muscle fatigue (full body)||Rodgers (Muscle Fatigue Assessment)|
|Manual material handling||MAC (Manual Handling Assessment Charts)
V-MAC (Variable Manual Handling Assessment Charts)
RAPP (Risk Assessment of Pushing and Pulling Assessment)
|Repetitive tasks||ART (Assessment of Repetitive Tasks tool)|
|Upper body (upper limbs)||OCRA (Occupational Repetitive Actions method)
RULA (Rapid Upper Limb Assessment)
|Hand-intensive tasks||The Strain Index|
|Vibration||HAV Calculator (Hand-Arm Vibration Calculator)|
Identifying current musculoskeletal disorders and risk (full body)
If you’re unsure where to begin in your ergonomics improvement process, start with a broad assessment that identifies current MSDs/RSIs and MSD/RSI risks of all kinds throughout the body. A body mapping tool, Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA), PLIBEL assessment, or Quick Exposure Check (QEC) will suffice.
→ For more background information on RSIs and computer use, see: Repetitive Strain Injury-Symptoms & Prevention for Computer Users
Body Mapping Tool Identifies MSD/RSI risks and disorders by confirming aches, pains, discomfort, numbness, tingling, or any pins-and-needles feelings throughout entire body
Also called: body map, body mapping questionnaire, body part discomfort scale, Nordic musculoskeletal questionnaire
Section of body: full body
When to use: You need to identify MSD/RSI risks and disorders throughout the entire body — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: One section of the body at a time, ask the worker if they experience aches, pains, discomforts, numbness, tingling, or pins and needle feelings in each part of the body: neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists/hands, upper back, lower back (hips/thighs/buttocks) knees, and ankles/feet. See HSE’s body mapping tool for reference
More resources: Contact Morgan Maxwell for an online body mapping tool
A body mapping tool — also called a questionnaire or body part discomfort scale — answers the question: what current musculoskeletal risks and disorders does my employee exhibit? Its step-by-step instructions focus on one part of the body at a time, guiding you through a comprehensive scan to identify musculoskeletal and other ergonomic issues. You can remap employees over time to measure the progression of musculoskeletal disorders.
REBA A full body assessment of posture for Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMSDs) and ergonomic risks.
Also called: Rapid Entire Body Assessment
Section of body: full body
When to use: Where assessment of postures through entire body is needed to identify risk of WRMSDs — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Focus on one section of the body at a time and evaluate posture and movement — the comprehensive postural analysis of REBA reveals musculoskeletal risks by assigning a score of 1-11+ that correlates to the level of severity of MSD/RSI risk.
More resources: Morgan Maxwell’s Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA) A Step by Step Guide with Free Worksheet PDF Download., Hignett’s and Mcatamney’s Rapid entire body assessment (REBA) published in Applied Ergonomics
REBA is an ergonomic risk assessment that looks at both upper and lower parts of the body to evaluate the musculoskeletal system, identifying biomechanical requires minimal equipment to conduct. REBA also scores for muscle activity created by static, dynamic, rapid changing, or unstable postures.
PLIBEL Identifies Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder and Repetitive Strain Injury risk factors for specific parts of the body — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Section of the body: full body
More resources: Kemmlert’s A method assigned for the identification of ergonomic hazards — PLIBEL published in Applied Ergonomics
PLIBEL is a simple method for identifying musculoskeletal or repetitive strain injury risk factors for a specific body region.
QEC 10-minute, full-body assessment for task-related MSD and RSI risk factors
Also called: Quick Exposure Checklist, Quick Exposure Check, Quick Exposure Check Survey,
Section of body: full body (back, shoulders and arms, hands and wrists, and neck)
When to use: When you need a 10-minute assessment to identify task-related MSD risk factors — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: For each part of the body, assess posture held during task, static nature of posture, how much time spent on the task per day, and a number of other factors — use a score sheet to translate your assessments into risk levels. See MSD Prevention’s Quick Exposure Check (QEC) for reference
More resources: HSE’s Further development of the usability and validity of the Quick Exposure Check (QEC) report, ergoweb’s A Simple Assessment Method: Quick Exposure Check (QEC) has been Updated; Additional Validation Studies Released resource, MSD Prevention’s Quick Exposure Check (QEC) checklist
The Quick Exposure Checklist (QEC) offers a 10-minute assessment of task exposure to musculoskeletal disorder risk factors. The tool produces a weighted score that measures the risk of a body section, task, or risk factor.
Physical exertion (full body)
Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Measures overall physical exertion, an estimate of heart rate per task
Also called: RPE, Borg Scale, Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion, Rating of Perceived Exertion, Borg’s Perceived Exertion And Pain Scales
Section of the body: Full body
When to use: Where an estimate of heart rate or a subjective measurement of how hard the employee feels like they are physically working (activity intensity, perceived exertion) when performing each task is needed — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Employee describes their physical sensations when performing the task at hand, attaches a number that correlates to that description (6-20; 6 = no exertion at all, 20 = maximum exertion), and adds a zero to each identified number. This final number indicates heart rate per each work task
More resources: Borg’s Perceived Exertion And Pain Scales published in Human Kinetics
With RPE, employees can track their own overall activity intensity simply by gauging their physical stress, effort, and fatigue for each task. The scale indicates heart rate. A Borg rating between 12-14 indicates a moderate level of intensity. If the Borg rating is too high or well below a safe level, the employee is encouraged to speed up or slow down their pace when performing the task accordingly.
Muscle fatigue (full body)
Rodgers (Muscle Fatigue Assessment) Measures overall physical fatigue throughout entire body to identify Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder risk
Also called: Sue Rodgers Muscle Fatigue Assessment, Rodgers Muscle Fatigue Analysis, Rodgers MFA, Job Fatigue Analysis
Section of body: Full body (neck, shoulders, back, arms/elbows, wrists/hands/fingers, legs/knees, ankles/feet/toes)
When to use: To assess the amount of muscle fatigue that accumulates within 5 minutes of a task, during various work patterns — specifically, tasks that are performed for an hour or more where awkward postures and frequent exertions exist — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Divide the job into tasks, assigning percentages to each task that correlate to their share of each shift — gauge the worker’s insight on whether each task is difficult
The equation within Rodger’s muscle fatigue assessment calculates the potential for fatigue of each task from low to very high. The rationale behind it: a rapidly fatiguing muscle is more susceptible to injury and inflammation. Therefore, minimising fatigue minimises muscular injuries.
Manual Material Handling
Material or manual material handling is defined, broadly, as any task that requires transport or support of a load by hand or physical force (including lifting, lowering/putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof). The following tools will help you identify MSD risk of tasks involving these efforts. See HSE’s Manual handling at work resources for more information.
MAC Identifies high-risk material manual handling tasks where weight load per task doesn’t vary
Also called: Manual Handling Assessment Charts, MAC charts, MAC tool
Section of the body: Full body
When to use: Where weight loads per manual handling task don’t vary — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Use a MAC tool interactive score sheet to identify and interpret risk level by following the colour-coded and numerical scoring system
More resources: HSE’s Manual handling assessment charts (the MAC tool) resource
Though the MAC tool doesn’t provide a comprehensive or full risk assessment of material manual tasks, it gives you a piece of the ergonomics puzzle, identifying and interpreting the level of risk posed by various work tasks.
V-MAC Identifies high-risk material manual handling tasks where weight loads across tasks vary
Also called: Variable Manual Handling Assessment Charts, V-MAC tool
Section of the body: Full body
When to use: Use in conjunction with MAC tool if weight loads vary across task (i.e. order picking, parcel sorting, trailer loading/unloading, and parts delivery in manufacturing…) or you can’t use ART tool because ART works best for upper limb assessments — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
More resources: HSE’s Variable manual handling assessment chart (V-MAC) tool resource, HSE’s Advantages and limitations of the V-MAC resource, HSE’s What you need to know before you use the V-MAC resource
The V-MAC is a tool for assessing manual handling operations where load weights vary across tasks over the course of the shift. It should be used in conjunction with the MAC tool. Significant background knowledge on the nature of work tasks and environments is needed to use V-MAC successfully.
SNOOK tables Assessment of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder risk of material or manual material handling tasks (lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and carrying tasks)
Also called: Psychophysical Tables, Liberty Mutual MMH (Manual Materials Handling) Tables, Liberty Mutual tables
Section of the body: Full body
When to use: To improve the design of various manual material handling tasks by evaluating the MSD risk of existing design — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Select tasks to be evaluated based on the most difficult and demanding lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing, or pulling tasks. Measure the following task variables per each task: Weight of Object, Force Requirement, Lift/Lower Distance, Hand Distance (Horizontal Hand Position), Hand Height, Push/Pull/Carry Distance, Frequency, Lifting/Lowering Zone and calculate Risk Index using a Snook Table calculator
More resources: Snook and Ciriello’s The design of manual handling tasks: revised tables of maximum acceptable weights and forces. published in Ergonomics
The Snook tables give parameters on maximum acceptable weights and forces per various manual material handling tasks. To use the tool, you measure multiple task variables and calculate a Risk Index — an estimate of the level of physical stress and MSD risk associated with the tasks evaluated.
RAPP Assessment of the key risks in manual pushing and pulling tasks involving the whole body to identify high-risk pushing and pulling tasks
Also called: Risk Assessment of Pushing and Pulling Assessment, RAPP Push-Pull Assessment tool, RAPP Push-Pull Risk Assessment tool
Section of the body: Full body
When to use: For assessing the Musculoskeletal Disorder or Repetitive Strain Injury risk of two kinds of pushing and pulling tasks — 1. moving loads using wheeled equipment (hand trolleys, pump trucks, carts, wheelbarrows…) 2. moving loads without wheeled equipment (dragging, sliding, churning, pivoting, rolling…) — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
NOTE: HSE maintains that the tool is not sensitive to risk levels in some pushing or pulling tasks using hand pallet trucks or similar equipment. Read more: https://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/pushpull/index.htm
Calculation: Follow the flow chart and assessment guide within HSE’s Risk assessment of pushing and pulling (RAPP) tool to identify the risk level for each risk factor, entering the appropriate colour and corresponding numerical score in the score sheet — add up all scores to equate a final score for comparison purposes. Colour bands help determine which risk factors require immediate attention, and should be prioritised
More resources: HSE’s RAPP tool – pushing and pulling loads
RAPP is a tool to identify high-risk manual pushing and pulling tasks involving the whole body. It’s not appropriate for assessing pushing and/or pulling tasks Involving: 1. just the upper limbs (pushing buttons/knobs, pulling levers, or moving loads on a conveyor belt) 2. just the lower limbs (pushing using a pedal, or with the feet) 3. powered handling equipment.
ART Measures exposure in arms and hands to MSD and RSI risk from repetitive motions
Also called: Assessment of Repetitive Tasks tool, Assessment of repetitive tasks of the upper limbs, ART tool, ART tool checklist
Section of body: upper limbs (arms and hands)
When to use: Where repetitive work involving arms and hands is performed — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Measure the level of risk for twelve factors — factors grouped into four stages: frequency and repetition of movements → force → awkward postures of the neck, back, arm, wrist and hand → additional factors, including breaks and duration — and calculate a risk exposure score. See HSE’s ART tool walk-through for a detailed step-by-step
More resources: HSE’s Assessment of Repetitive Tasks (ART) tool
The ART tool assesses common risk factors in repetitive work that contribute to the development of Upper Limb Disorders (ULDs). It’s the appropriate risk assessment tool to use if you need to identify repetitive tasks that pose an ergonomic hazard and zero in on the right risk reduction measures. Through an ART assessment, you can prioritise which measures need to be taken first according to existing risk levels.
Upper body (upper limbs)
OCRA Measures Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorder and Repetitive Strain Injury risks to upper limbs — specifically, repetitiveness, force, awkward postures and movements, and lack of recovery periods
Also called: Occupational Repetitive Actions method, OCRA Methodology, OCRA system, The Occupational Repetitive Actions, OCRA Checklist, OCRA Index
Section of body: Upper limbs (arms and hands)
When to use: Where the job involves repetitive movements and/or efforts of the upper limbs — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: The OCRA calculation is a function of frequency, force, and posture multiplied by a recovery and duration multiplier. For reference, see page 16 of Ergonomie Site’s OCRA checklist resources
More resources: Nurvitarini’s OCRA (The Occupational Repetitive Actions) methods: OCRA Index and OCRA Checklist published in Ergonomics & Human Factors
The OCRA method evaluates four main risk factors based on their respective duration: repetitiveness and frequency of actions, force, awkward posture and movements, and lack of proper recovery periods. Its calculation is a function of these risk factors and indicates estimated level of MSD and RSI risk according to a 3-zone model (green; yellow; red).
RULA Measures body posture, force, and repetition to identify Musculoskeletal Disorder risk
Also called: Rapid Upper Limb Assessment
Section of the body: Upper limbs (arm, wrist, neck)
When to use: To “rapidly” evaluate individual workers’ exposure to ergonomic risk factors associated with upper extremity Musculoskeletal Disorder by evaluating required body posture, force (forceful exertions), and repetition (muscle use frequency) of the job task being evaluated — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Zero in on one section of the body (i.e. arm and wrist section) by identifying postures that pose an MSD risk — postures which are difficult, static, or require force — and zeroing in on the section of the body holding this posture. Score the posture according to degrees of flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, pronation, supination, or elevation within this section of the body and score the load/force — together, these numbers give you a risk index and RULA score.
More resources: Morgan Maxwell’s Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) Worksheet Tool – A Step by Step Guide With Free PDF Download, HSE’s Risk assessment resource with an overview of RULA
A RULA assessment produces a RULA Score, which is score 1-7, indicating the level of MSD risk for the job task at hand. It is a function of body posture, force, and repetition. A score of 1 represents negligible risk while a score of 7 represents very high risk — indicating that change is needed promptly.
The Strain Index Measures risk of developing hand, wrist, forearm, or elbow MSDs or RSIs — by function of a hand-intensive task
Also called: Strain Index Job Analysis, Job Strain Index method, JSI method
Section of body: Hands, wrists, forearms, or elbows
When to use: Where the task in review is hand-intensive — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Strain Index (SI) Score = (Intensity of Exertion Multiplier) * (Duration of Exertion Multiplier) * (Exertions per Minute Multiplier) * (Posture Multiplier) * (Speed of Work Multiplier) * (Duration per Day Multiplier)
More resources: Ergoweb’s The Strain Index Job Analysis Method: Q & A resource, Garg, Moore, and Kapellusch’s The Revised Strain Index: an improved upper extremity exposure assessment model. Published in Ergonomics
The strain index is a tool to evaluate the MSD or RSI risk of hand-intensive tasks. Its equation calculates the worker’s risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder in the hand, wrist, forearm, or elbow. To use it, you define six task variables and multiply them to get a Strain Index (SI) score — jobs with an SI score greater than 5 are correlated with distal upper extremity disorders (MSDs/RSIs of the hand, wrist, forearm, or elbow).
HAV Calculator Measures exposure to hand-arm vibration (HAV)
Also called: Hand-Arm Vibration Calculator, Vibration Calculator, Vibration Exposure Calculator, HAVS Calculator, HAV Risk Assessment
Section of body: Hands, arms
When to use: Where workers frequently use power tools or machinery that create vibration (hand-held power tools, hand-guided powered equipment, powered machines that process hand-held materials) — for RSI, MSD, WRMSD assessment and prevention
Calculation: Within HSE’s Hand-arm Vibration Exposure Calculator, input vibration magnitude (in m/s2) and exposure duration (in hours and/or minutes) for each machine or process and enter to return partial exposure value, daily exposure value, exposure points per hour, time to reach EAV (exposure action value), and time to reach ELV (exposure limit value) per each machine or process. See HSE’s resource for reference on safe vibration magnitude ranges per common machines, to identify and address high-priority ergonomic hazards
The HAV is a tool to calculate daily exposure to hand-arm vibration in the workplace. Tools and machinery that transmit vibration into the hands and arms can cause Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Regularly calculating vibration exposure levels for each employee is highly recommended.
Need help with your MSD/RSI/Ergonomic Risk Assessment and overall MSD prevention and ergonomics improvement process? Contact Morgan Maxwell today to speak with a Chartered Ergonomist. We can help you identify the right ergonomic risk assessment, checklist, tool, or evaluation for the job. If you’re unsure whether you need a Chartered Ergonomist’s expertise, see our blog post first: What is a Chartered Ergonomist?, and drop us a line with any questions.