Comparison of back and neck fatigue in stoop versus prone postures while performing a simulated manual agricultural task

Research Trainee: Robert H. Meyer, PhD Student, Dept. of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Faculty Researcher: Robert G. Radwin, PhD, Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison

This research aims to develop a laboratory experiment to study a simulated agricultural task normally performed bent over while working at ground level and alternatively working on a prone support platform. These two methods will be compared by quantifying the biomechanical (localized muscle fatigue), perceived discomfort and performance effects of the stoop and prone postures. Prior research for prone workstation technology adoption has focused mainly on productivity and economic payback rather than on the effect of working in a prone posture on the body. This study investigates if the prone posture is effective in delaying the onset of fatigue while maintaining performance. This experiment will utilize surface EMG to characterize localized fatigue in the upper back and neck muscles, as well as a psychophysical scale to determine the perceived exertion of the subjects while performing a motion intensive task using the hands, similar to hand harvesting in agriculture. Should this research prove a delay in onset of fatigue in the upper back and neck, further research could encompass whole body fatigue analysis. This research is a pilot study for further investigation into workstations in agricultural ergonomics and their potential to reduce fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders in manufacturing and rehabilitation settings.


Publications resulting from this project:
Meyer RH, Radwin RG. Comparison of stoop versus prone postures for a simulated agricultural harvesting task. Applied Ergonomics. 2007;38(5):549-555. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2006.08.005.