Integrated Productive and Ergonomic Workplace Design in Construction

  • Author / Creator
    Mohammadhosseinzadehgolabchi, Alireza
  • As the construction industry is prone to various hazards, its rate of injuries and fatalities are among the highest. As a result, health and safety has emerged as a crucial aspect of any construction project. Among occupational injuries, Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are reported as the leading cause of disabilities and days away from work. WMSDs are not only associated with worker injuries and discomfort but also impose high costs, diminish productivity, increase absenteeism, lower quality, and decrease job satisfaction. WMSDs can be prevented through ergonomics, which aims to eliminate injuries and disorders associated with overuse of muscles, awkward posture, and repeated motions, by fitting workplace conditions and job demands to worker capacity. However, current practice in workplace design often focuses on productivity improvements rather than on enhancing ergonomic safety. This occurs in spite of the fact that, when ergonomic principles are not fully implemented, the benefits of increased productivity are likely offset by increased medical and workers’ compensation costs as well as lost productivity (e.g., absenteeism). Notably, safety and productivity are highly associated, and actions carried out to improve performance can adversely or positively impact safety (and vice versa). However, current approaches used in construction lack the concurrent integration of both production and safety into workplace and operation design and do not fully consider the high association between the two. Thus, this study explores an integrated approach to workplace and labor operation evaluation and design by incorporating both productivity and ergonomic safety into a comprehensive analysis. Such integration enables examination of the trade-off between ergonomic risk and productivity of labor operations, which can potentially provide a framework for designing work environments where not only WMSDs are prevented but optimum efficiency is also achieved. It also enhances the understanding of safety in conjunction with work environments and production plans in the interest of human well-being in the workplace. To integrate productivity and safety into workplace evaluation and design, the following stages must be completed: (1) analysis of ergonomic risks associated with worker activities; (2) evaluation of the efficiency of labor operations through motion-level modeling; (3) examination of the causal relationship between production tasks and ergonomic behavior in construction operations; (4) development of a comprehensive framework that integrates data collection, analysis, and results representation while enabling the comparison of different operations scenarios in terms of performance and safety. To achieve a reliable ergonomic assessment of labor operations, this study uses motion capture data in conjunction with 3D modeling of workplaces to enable an automated ergonomic and biomechanical analysis of existing and non-existing operations. Furthermore, to provide the means to model manual operations at a motion level, the integration of Predetermined Motion Time Systems (PMTSs), which enables cycle time estimation and efficiency evaluation of manual processes, into simulation modeling is examined. Finally, a framework that uses sensing and action recognition for data acquisition, biomechanical simulation, and PMTS-based modeling for efficiency and safety analysis and worker motion generation, path planning, and as-is modeling for visualization and representation of the analysis results is developed. Such a framework enables an automated and reliable evaluation of both efficiency and ergonomic safety of labor operations simultaneously.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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