The development of a model to predict the effects of worker and task factors on foot placements in manual material handling tasks

Accurate prediction of foot placements in relation to hand locations during manual materials handling tasks is critical for prospective biomechanical analysis. To address this need, the effects of lifting task conditions and anthropometric variables on foot placements were studied in a laboratory experiment. In total, 20 men and women performed two-handed object transfers that required them to walk to a shelf, lift an object from the shelf at waist height and carry the object to a variety of locations. Five different changes in the direction of progression following the object pickup were used, ranging from 45° to 180° relative to the approach direction. Object weights of 1.0 kg, 4.5 kg, 13.6 kg were used. Whole-body motions were recorded using a 3-D optical retro-reflective marker-based camera system. A new parametric system for describing foot placements, the Quantitative Transition Classification System, was developed to facilitate the parameterisation of foot placement data. Foot placements chosen by the subjects during the transfer tasks appeared to facilitate a change in the whole-body direction of progression, in addition to aiding in performing the lift. Further analysis revealed that five different stepping behaviours accounted for 71% of the stepping patterns observed. More specifically, the most frequently observed behaviour revealed that the orientation of the lead foot during the actual lifting task was primarily affected by the amount of turn angle required after the lift (R(2) = 0.53). One surprising result was that the object mass (scaled by participant body mass) was not found to significantly affect any of the individual step placement parameters. Regression models were developed to predict the most prevalent step placements and are included in this paper to facilitate more accurate human motion simulations and ergonomics analyses of manual material lifting tasks. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: This study proposes a method for parameterising the steps (foot placements) associated with manual material handling tasks. The influence of task conditions and subject anthropometry on the foot placements of the most frequently observed stepping pattern during a laboratory study is discussed. For prospective postural analyses conducted using digital human models, accurate prediction of the foot placements is critical to realistic postural analyses and improved biomechanical job evaluations.

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