Assessing Physical Demands of Construction Workers Using Wearable Sensors

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil and Construction Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Osama Abudayyeh

Second Advisor

Dr. Abiola Akanmu

Third Advisor

Dr. Ikhlas Abdel-Qader


construction worker, wearable sensors, WMSDs


Construction activities involve intense physical movement of human body parts. The physically demanding nature of these activities exposes workers to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). The Bureau of Labor and Statistics identifies WMSDs as one of the primary sources of non-fatal injuries in the construction industry and a continuous threat to the health of the construction workforce. The increase in the rate of occurrence of WMSDs among the construction workforce have been attributed to repetitive motion, heavy lifting, pushing or pulling heavy loads, awkward body postures, vibration, and contact forces. The aftermaths of these WMSDs have been identified as worker disability, disruption to work, increase in lost time due to injury, and an early exit from the workforce. Previous ergonomic studies have been largely focused on assessment of the influence of risk factors on body parts for general construction tasks. However, they do not provide evidence of the contributions of the actions involved in the subtasks to the risk factors. As such, these studies may not assist in providing focused and adequate training.

This study presents the results of the characterization of the ergonomic exposures associated with sub-tasks of construction activities performed by construction workers on the actual worksite environments using data obtained from wearable sensors. The results show the subtasks and their contributions to ergonomic risks for such body parts as the trunk, shoulder, elbow, knee, head, and hip. It can be inferred from the results that the contributions of the subtasks vary significantly for different body parts. Based on these results, it was concluded that the assessment of physical demands of construction workers is needed and the data obtained are useful to inform the development of interventions tailored towards the construction industry.

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