Low-Cost Ergonomic Intervention for Mitigating Physical and Subjective Discomfort during Manual Rebar Tying

W. Umer*, H. Li, G.P.Y. Szeto, A.Y.L. Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The construction industry around the globe is facing a massive predicament of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), largely attributed to the excessive physical exertion at worksites. Whereas ergonomic interventions are suggested to be an effective approach to mitigate such routine exertion, these ergonomic interventions should be task specific because of the unique characteristics of each trade (such as rebar work; a construction trade with a high prevalence rate of MSDs). Despite numerous potential interventions available for rebar workers, none of them has been widely adopted, especially in the Asian market. After considering various reasons impeding their broad usage, the authors coined a simple ergonomic solution by attaching a low height domestic stool to the pants of rebar workers. This would allow them to sit and work instead of squatting, which is the most preferred posture in Asian cultures for working at ground level. The novel intervention was tested against squatting for various physical outcomes (i.e., muscle activity, neuromuscular fatigue, trunk kinematics and lower extremity blood circulation) and self-perceived discomfort, using a simulated rebar tying task in a laboratory. These findings demonstrate that the intervention has beneficial effects on both physical and subjective outcomes, and has a great potential in reducing work-related MSDs among Asian rebar workers. Additionally, the current study highlights that ergonomic interventions in the construction industry should be derived based on both the characteristics of specific construction trades and culture of workers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number04017075
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number10
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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