Extensive studies have been carried out over the years to determine the maximum acceptable weight that a worker is capable of lifting in a given situation among Occidental populations across Europe and US. Nonetheless, studies that place emphasis on using lifting frequency as the quantifying task parameter, especially in developing countries such as Malaysia, appear to be in scarcity. Hence, this study determined the maximum acceptable frequency of lift (MAFL) for combined manual material handling (MMH) tasks amongst Malaysian males.
Two lifting loads were considered in this study: 1 kg and 5 kg. Each subject adjusted his frequency of lifting using a psychophysical approach. The subjects were instructed to perform combined MMH task as fast as they could over a period of 45 minutes without exhausting themselves or becoming overheated. The physiological response energy expenditure was recorded during the experimental sessions. The ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) for four body parts (forearms, upper arm, lower back and entire body) were recorded after the subjects had completed the instructed task.
The mean frequencies of the MMH task had been 6.8 and 5.5 cycles/minute for lifting load of 1 and 5 kg, respectively, while the mean energy expenditure values were 4.16 and 5.62 kcal/min for 1 and 5 kg load, respectively. These displayed a significant difference in the Maximum Acceptable Frequency of Lift (MAFL) between the two loads, energy expenditure and RPE (p < 0.05) whereby the subjects appeared to work harder physiologically for heavier load.
It can be concluded that it is significant to assess physiological response and RPE in determining the maximum acceptable lifting frequency at varied levels of load weight. The findings retrieved in this study can aid in designing tasks that do not exceed the capacity of workers in order to minimise the risk of WRMSDs.