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International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics

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Overhead and underground line work in the electric power industry is physically very strenuous and can expose workers to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), particularly in the upper extremity. Crimping compression connectors—such as sleeve connectors and lugs—and cutting cables are two of the most frequent tasks that line workers perform. Line workers at many utilities in the US crimp connectors and cut cable with long-handled manual tools. However, the actual magnitude of the forces applied to the handles of these tools is not known. The objectives of this laboratory study were to measure the forces applied to the handles of a manual press and a manual cutter in order to connect typical wire gauges and cut common cables, respectively. The handles of the manual press and cutter were attached to the drive cylinder and load cell of an Instrom Material Testing System, and peak forces exerted against the handles were measured. Results showed that the outer die of the manual press required about 50% more handle force than crimping connectors with the inner die location. The peak handle forces required to cut aluminum conductor cable as large as 2 cm diameter exceeded 500 N and were about 200 N greater than the peak forces to compress connectors manually. When the peak force data were compared to strength capabilities reported in the literature, less than 1% of the general population was found to have the maximum strength to manually make one crimp on a common overhead connector. Less than 1% and approximately 50% of the female and male general population, respectively, were found to have the maximum strength to manually cut a cable with a 2 cm diameter conductor. Handle force data from this study provide a biomechanical framework for explaining how the job demands of overhead and underground line workers could possibly cause MSDs.

Relevance to industry

Electric power utilities can review their work practices and tools in order to determine whether they can reduce the exposure of their workers to risk factors of MSDs, as well as reduce their cost of health care. Manufacturers of crimping and cutting tools can use the experimental approach in this study to measure the external forces required for their respective tools and then set quantitative force benchmarks to improve the design of their tools.


Accepted version. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Vol. 34, No. 6 (December 2004): 497-506. DOI. © 2004 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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