Personalized method for self-management of trunk postural ergonomic hazards in construction rebar ironwork

Xuzhong Yan, Heng Li, Hong Zhang, Timothy M. Rose

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Construction rebar workers face postural ergonomic hazards that can lead to work-related Lower Back Disorders (LBDs), primarily due to their prolonged awkward working postures required by the job. In a previous study, Wearable Inertial Measurement Units (WIMUs)-based Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was developed to alert workers when their trunk inclination holding time exceeded acceptable thresholds as defined in ISO standard 11226:2000. However, subsequent field testing identified PPE was ineffective for some workers because the adopted ISO thresholds were not personalized and did not consider differences in individual's response to postural ergonomic hazards. To address this problem, this paper introduces a worker-centric method to assist in the self-management of work-related ergonomic hazards, based on data-driven personalized healthcare intervention. Firstly, personalized information is gathered by providing each rebar ironworker a WIMU-based personalized mobile health (mHealth) system to capture their trunk inclination angle and holding time data. Then, the captured individual trunk inclination holding times are analyzed by a Gaussian-like probability density function, where abnormal holding time thresholds can be generated and updated in response to incoming trunk inclination records of an individual during work time. These abnormal holding time thresholds are then adapted to be used as personalized trunk inclination holding time recommendations for an individual worker to self-manage their working postures, based on their own trunk inclination records. The proposed worker-centric method to assist in the self-management of ergonomic postural hazards leading to LBDs was field tested on a construction site over a three-month duration. The results of the paired t-tests indicate that posture scores evaluated by the Ovako Working Posture Analysis System (OWAS) significantly decrease when the personalized recommendation is applied, while increase again when the personalized recommendation is removed. Based on data-driven personalized healthcare intervention, the results demonstrate the significant potential of the proposed worker-centric self-management method for rebar workers in preventing and controlling postural ergonomic hazards during construction rebar ironwork.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Engineering Informatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Holding time
  • Lower Back Disorders (LBDs)
  • Mobile health (mHealth)
  • Personalized healthcare
  • Self-management
  • Trunk inclination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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