Selected questions on biomechanical exposures for surveillance of upper-limb work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Alexis Descatha, Yves Roquelaure, Bradley Evanoff, Isabelle Niedhammer, Jean François Chastang, Camille Mariot, Catherine Ha, Ellen Imbernon, Marcel Goldberg, Annette Leclerc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Questionnaires for assessment of biomechanical exposure are frequently used in surveillance programs, though few studies have evaluated which key questions are needed. We sought to reduce the number of variables on a surveillance questionnaire by identifying which variables best summarized biomechanical exposure in a survey of the French working population. Methods: We used data from 2002 to 2003 French experimental network of Upper-limb work-related musculoskeletal disorders (UWMSD), performed on 2,685 subjects in which 37 variables assessing biomechanical exposures were available (divided into four ordinal categories, according to the task frequency or duration). Principal Component Analysis (PCA) with orthogonal rotation was performed on these variables. Variables closely associated with factors issued from PCA were retained, except those highly correlated to another variable (ρ > 0.70). In order to study the relevance of the final list of variables, correlations between a score based on retained variables (PCA score) and the exposure score suggested by the SALTSA group were calculated. The associations between the PCA score and the prevalence of UWMSD were also studied. In a final step, we added back to the list a few variables not retained by PCA, because of their established recognition as risk factors. Results: According to the results of the PCA, seven interpretable factors were identified: posture exposures, repetitiveness, handling of heavy loads, distal biomechanical exposures, computer use, forklift operator specific task, and recovery time. About 20 variables strongly correlated with the factors obtained from PCA were retained. The PCA score was strongly correlated both with the SALTSA score and with UWMSD prevalence (P <0.0001). In the final step, six variables were reintegrated. Conclusion: Twenty-six variables of 37 were efficiently selected according to their ability to summarize major biomechanical constraints in a working population, with an approach combining statistical analyses and existing knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Occupational physical exposure
  • Principal component analysis
  • Questionnaire
  • Upper extremity


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