Open Access Open Badges Research article

Data collection costs in industrial environments for three occupational posture exposure assessment methods

Catherine Trask12*, Svend Erik Mathiassen1, Jens Wahlström13, Marina Heiden1 and Mahmoud Rezagholi1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, Department of Occupational and Public Health Sciences, University of Gävle, SE – 801 76, Gävle, Sweden

2 Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, 103 Hospital Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7N 0W8

3 Department of Public Health & Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Umeå University, SE-901 85, Umeå, Sweden

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:89  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-89

Published: 27 June 2012



Documentation of posture measurement costs is rare and cost models that do exist are generally naïve. This paper provides a comprehensive cost model for biomechanical exposure assessment in occupational studies, documents the monetary costs of three exposure assessment methods for different stakeholders in data collection, and uses simulations to evaluate the relative importance of cost components.


Trunk and shoulder posture variables were assessed for 27 aircraft baggage handlers for 3 full shifts each using three methods typical to ergonomic studies: self-report via questionnaire, observation via video film, and full-shift inclinometer registration. The cost model accounted for expenses related to meetings to plan the study, administration, recruitment, equipment, training of data collectors, travel, and onsite data collection. Sensitivity analyses were conducted using simulated study parameters and cost components to investigate the impact on total study cost.


Inclinometry was the most expensive method (with a total study cost of € 66,657), followed by observation (€ 55,369) and then self report (€ 36,865). The majority of costs (90%) were borne by researchers. Study design parameters such as sample size, measurement scheduling and spacing, concurrent measurements, location and travel, and equipment acquisition were shown to have wide-ranging impacts on costs.


This study provided a general cost modeling approach that can facilitate decision making and planning of data collection in future studies, as well as investigation into cost efficiency and cost efficient study design. Empirical cost data from a large field study demonstrated the usefulness of the proposed models.

Ergonomics; Posture; Inclinometer; Observation; Questionnaire