Virtual Reality-based Human Factor Analyses for Ergonomic Improvements in Construction Manufacturing Facilities

  • Author / Creator
    Dias Ferreira Barkokébas, Regina Celi
  • In construction manufacturing, components (e.g., panels or modules) are produced in a factory environment before being transported and installed in a construction site. In this context, two distinct operational phases are observed: factory, accounting for 60%–90% of the tasks that would typically have been performed on site in conventional construction, and on site, where components are assembled and finishing tasks are completed. Due to the standardization of processes aiming to increase overall facility production, workers in construction manufacturing are often exposed to physical demands (e.g., repetitive motion and awkward body posture) that are associated with the risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders and experiencing physical fatigue, despite the use of semi-automated equipment. Both fatigue and work-related musculoskeletal disorders decrease workers’ productivity, motivation, and physical and cognitive abilities. In addition, work-related musculoskeletal disorders are correlated with high absenteeism, increased compensation costs, and early retirements, thus incurring in social and financial losses. Assessing ergonomic risks of workstations and providing preventive measurements such as ergonomic training to workers is thus necessary to not only support a safer workplace and reduce long-term exposure of workers to ergonomic risks associated with fatigue and work-related musculoskeletal disorders, but also improve overall facility production. As research methods to collect human body motions have limitations, such as workplace interruptions and biased results due to subjective observation, this research proposes virtual reality-based ergonomic assessment frameworks to evaluate ergonomic risks and provide real-time ergonomic assessment and postural recommendation during training sessions in a laboratory setting. The proposed frameworks can be applied throughout the design development and operational phases of workstations on a production line. By identifying ergonomic risk ratings proactively in the initial phases of workstation design, the number of iterations required using physical prototypes is thus reduced, thereby reducing the cost and time required to develop and implement an improved workstation design. In addition, the integration of virtual reality with a motion capture system to provide real-time ergonomic risk assessment and postural recommendations during training on construction manufacturing tasks increases subject’s awareness of ergonomically hazardous postures and thus reduces subject’s exposure to ergonomic risks in the high-risk range. The proposed frameworks are validated through practical applications with corresponding research experiments that simulate various manufacturing tasks in the construction manufacturing industry. The contribution of the proposed research is innovative virtual reality-based ergonomic risk assessment frameworks capable of providing a robust ergonomic analysis that can be applied for product and process analysis as well as for training on the tasks performed in construction manufacturing facilities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.