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Physical Workload

A healthy relationship between workload and strain on the individual

Physical workloads, for example due to unfavourable postures or heavy lifting and carrying, continue to present a health risk for workers. In order to assess this risk, BAuA is working to refine the key indicator methods.

Physical workloads are not fundamentally harmful to humans. On the contrary, they are an essential part of human life and of staying healthy.

With regard to the protection of workers' health, it is essential to optimise the relationship between physical workload and strain. Physical workload in the form of excessive or insufficient demands can lead to health risks.

Types of physical workload

Physical workloads can be broken down into three types:

  • heavy work,
  • repetitive activities,
  • forced static postures.

Heavy work includes all activities that place stress on the entire body, for example during the moving of large loads. Improper workloads can also be caused by persistently repetitive activities, even if these involve only a small exertion of force or only certain parts of the body. Examples include assembly work or handling cash at a supermarket checkout.

Likewise, forced static postures can result in improper physical workloads. Example postures include working overhead, a frequent occurrence for occupations in the construction industry. Such postures can lead to excess strain on the musculoskeletal and cardiometabolic systems.

Risk assessment and key indicator methods

Risk assessment distinguishes between six different workloads:

  • the lifting, holding and carrying of loads,
  • the pulling and pushing of loads,
  • highly repetitive manual activities,
  • work in unfavourable or forced postures,
  • work requiring a lot of force,
  • work requiring a lot of movement with or without a load.

Both the Safety and Health at Work Act (ArbSchG) and the Manual Handling of Loads Ordinance (LasthandhabV) require the employer to conduct a risk assessment of physical workloads, as well as to derive prevention measures if a hazard cannot be safely ruled out.

The key indicator methods, whose development was led by BAuA, serve as reliable proven and tested screening instruments for risk assessment. In addition, they can provide indications of workplace redesign options. Furthermore, digital human models from the field of biomechanics can be used to estimate the forces acting inside the body during various activities.

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