Difference between male and female workers lifting the same relative load when palletizing boxes

A few biomechanical studies have contrasted the work techniques of female and male workers during manual material handling (MMH). A recent study showed that female workers differed from males mostly in the strategy they used to lift 15-kg boxes from the ground, especially regarding task duration, knee and back postures and interjoint coordination. However, the lifting technique difference observed in females compared to males was perhaps due to a strength differences. The objective of this study was to test whether female workers would repeat the same lifting technique with a load adjusted to their overall strength (females: 10 kg; males: 15 kg), which can be considered a “relative load” since the overall back strength of females is 2/3 that of males. The task for the participants consisted in transferring boxes from one pallet to another. A dynamic 3D linked segment model was used to estimate the net moments at L5/S1, and different kinematic variables were considered. The results showed that the biomechanics of the lifting techniques used by males and females were similar in terms of task duration and cumulative loading, but different in terms of interjoint coordination pattern. The sequential interjoint coordination pattern previously seen in females with an absolute load (15 kg) was still present with the relative load, suggesting the influence of factors more intrinsically linked to sex. Considering that the female coordination pattern likely stretched posterior passive tissues when lifting boxes from the ground, potentially leading to higher risk of injury, the reason for this sex effect must be identified so that preventive interventions can be proposed.

Source: Plamondon, A., Larivière, C., Denis, D., Mecheri, H., Nastasia, I., & IRSST MMH research group. (2017). Applied Ergonomics, 60, 93-102.

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