OBJECTIVES: This study examined the validity of a common belief in epidemiology with respect to work-related musculoskeletal disorders, that individual mechanical job exposure is better estimated from tasks performed in the job than from the mean exposure of the occupational group. METHODS: Whole-day recordings of upper trapezius electromyography were obtained from 24 cleaners and 23 office workers. Trapezius activity was analyzed in the level (gap time) and frequency (jerk time) dimensions. On the same day, the job of each person was divided into periods of active work and breaks by means of continuous observations. The bootstrap re-sampling technique was used with this database to compare task-based job exposure estimates with estimates based on the occupational mean. For a particular person, the task-based estimate was obtained by combining the average work and break exposures in the occupation with the personal time proportions of the two tasks in the job. RESULTS: The task-based estimates were, in general, equivalent to, or less correct than, occupation-based estimates for both exposure parameters in both occupations and for individual exposures, as well as for group means. This was the result in spite of significant and consistent exposure differences between work and breaks, in particular among the cleaners. CONCLUSIONS: Even if task exposure contrasts are large, task-based estimates of job exposures can be less correct than estimates based on the occupational mean. Since collecting and processing task information is costly, it is recommended that task-based modeling of mechanical exposure be implemented in studies only after careful examination of its possible benefits.
MEDICIN OCH HÄLSOVETENSKAP -- Hälsovetenskaper -- Miljömedicin och yrkesmedicin (hsv//swe)
MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES -- Health Sciences -- Environmental Health and Occupational Health (hsv//eng)