Thermography and Occupational Risk Prevention: Application in Health.
The health sector often deals with areas such as occupational risk prevention, aiming to enhance workers’ condition while boosting their availability and productivity.
Analyzing task types and identifying exposed regions at risk constitutes an initial containment measure to alleviate the effects of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the most typical issue in the occupational risk disorders.
Numerous research efforts exist with diverse evaluation methods, yet thermography stands out for its speed and innocuousness in monitoring injury-prone areas.
The first study to use thermography as an evaluation tool for occupational risk prevention.
The primary study using thermography as an evaluation tool analyzed the effect of two sitting postures on neck and upper back muscle load through infrared thermography (IRT), surface electromyography (sEMG) measurements throughout the workday, and Neck Disability Index (NDI) scoring. The investigation compared traditional sitting versus an upright posture’s impact on muscular activity and discomfort in mildly disabled office workers according to the NDI (Roope Lasanen et al. 2018)
Involving fourteen female participants, measurements with sEMG and infrared thermography were conducted at their conventional workstations and subsequently with an upright posture. The study revealed that adopting an upright posture significantly reduced muscle activation in the upper back and neck-shoulder area, along with decreased skin temperature over these muscles compared to the traditional posture. Additionally, the self-assessed NDI score notably decreased after participants began working with an upright posture.
Infrared thermography results depicted a more evenly distributed muscular load in the upper back with the upright posture compared to the traditional one, suggesting its potential to uniformly redistribute muscular load, potentially beneficial in reducing muscle fatigue and discomfort.
While primarily focused on female participants and facing limitations in accurately controlling work activities during measurements, this study suggests that infrared thermography could be a valuable tool to evaluate the effects of different work postures on muscular activity and discomfort in the neck and back.
The most comprehensive study on occupational risk prevention.
The most comprehensive study on occupational risk prevention conducted simulation experiments with 160 participants, measuring skin temperatures before and after repetitive tasks in environmentally controlled settings. Findings indicated a correlation between skin temperature variations and different levels of repetitive tasks, with the forearm region showing the most significant correlation, leading to its selection for the proposed tool due to practicality (Soares A.L. et al 2020).
The study aimed to expedite workstation risk assessment using innocuous technology, believing that evaluating more workstations would offer greater opportunities for improvement and injury prevention. A reduction in work-related musculoskeletal disorder incidence may follow as preventive measures, such as thermography, are implemented.
- The use of thermography in occupational risk prevention emerges as a useful, fast, and efficient tool. Assessing day-to-day work tasks to detect risk areas becomes crucial in mitigating musculoskeletal disorders and preventing employee absences.
- Pioneering studies employed infrared thermography to analyze work postures and their muscular impact, highlighting reduced discomfort and muscular activation with upright postures. Another investigation revealed correlations between skin temperature variation and levels of repetitive tasks, focusing on the forearm as a key area.
- Implementing thermography promises to expedite risk assessment and prevent workplace injuries, offering opportunities to enhance working conditions.
Roope Lasanen, Markus.H. Malo, Olavi Airaksinen, Jari Karhu, Juha Töyräs & Petro Julkunen (2018) Infrared thermography reveals effect of working posture on skin temperature in office workers, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 24:3, 457-463, DOI: 10.1080/10803548.2017.1336299
Soares, A.L.; Xavier, A.A.d.P.; Michaloski, A.O. Occupational Risk Evaluation through Infrared Thermography: Development and Proposal of a Rapid Screening Tool for Risk Assessment Arising from Repetitive Actions of the Upper Limbs. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 3390. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17103390