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Doctoral thesis, 2012

Physical workload and musculoskeletal symptoms in the human-horse work environment

Löfqvist, Lotta


Most work in horse stables is performed manually in much the same way as a century ago, with old-fashioned tools and equipment. It is one of the least mechanised sectors dealing with large animals, which often involves work in awkward postures and lifts of heavy loads. However, there is a lack of knowledge of the ergonomic risks in the human-horse work environment. This thesis seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the human-horse work environment, work tasks, workload and frequency of musculoskeletal symptoms and to identify potential risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal symptoms. Self-reporting methods (questionnaires, rating scales), observation methods (OWAS, REBA), descriptive task analysis (HTA, HA, GTS) and biomechanical analysis (JACK) were used to collect and analyse data. Riding instructors surveyed in the questionnaire study reported high levels of perceived musculoskeletal symptoms in at least one of nine anatomical areas during the past year and the past week. The most frequently reported problem areas were the shoulders, the lower back and the neck. Mucking out stables was considered to be the task involving the heaviest work. OWAS analysis showed that three work tasks contained a high proportion of unacceptably awkward work postures, namely mucking out, preparing bedding and sweeping. During mucking out and sweeping, the back was bent and twisted for most of the time. There were many high-risk operations involved in mucking out boxes and disposing of bedding material. Emptying a wheel barrow on the muck heap included high-risk operations with awkward postures such as twisted, bent back arms over shoulder level and handling high loads. The analytical methods used clearly revealed where in the work tasks the ergonomic problems occurred. In almost all operations with a high risk level, a shafted tool or wheelbarrow was used. Analysis of the shaft length of two hand-held tools used for mucking out (manure fork, shavings fork) showed that the manure fork should have a longer shaft to reduce loading on the back. The results for the shavings fork were inconclusive, but indicated the importance of changes in work technique. More in-depth knowledge of the musculoskeletal symptoms and work tasks performed in the human-horse work environment makes it easier to plan and implement measures to prevent musculoskeletal symptoms in this particular group of workers.


Work tasks; Ergonomics; Work postures; long-shafted tools

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2012, number: 2012:32
ISBN: 978-91-576-7668-9
Publisher: Dept. of Work Science, Business Economics & Environmental Psychology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Löfqvist, Lotta

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Occupational Health and Safety
Work Sciences

URI (permanent link to this page)