The construction industry accounted for the fourth-highest number of diseases and lost-time injuries and the highest number of fatalities among all industries, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada. The physical demands of industrialized construction expose workers to risks of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, like repetitive motion and awkward body posture, which is largely related to workstation design and facility layout.

Can a virtual reality-based ergonomic assessment method reduce the need for physical mock-ups and lessen the cost and time required to develop and implement an improved workstation design? “Use of Virtual Reality to Assess the Ergonomic Risk of Industrialized Construction Tasks,” a new study in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management by Regina Dias Barkokebas and Xinming Li, Ph.D., conducted experiments using 13 participants to perform the same task in both real and virtual environments. Learn more in the abstract below or read the full findings in the ASCE Library.


Workers in industrialized construction are often exposed to physical demands (e.g., repetitive motion and awkward body posture) associated with the risks of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, despite the utilization of automated equipment. To reduce exposure to these risks, an investigation of workstation design is needed. This paper proposes a virtual reality (VR)-based ergonomic assessment method that identifies ergonomic risk ratings proactively in the initial phases of workstation design, thus reducing the need for physical mock-ups and lessening the cost and time required to develop and implement an improved workstation design. This method was demonstrated in an operational task through an experiment conducted with 13 participants. Compared with the physical mock-up, the designed VR application achieved an accuracy of approximately 86% and 80%, respectively, in Rapid Upper Limb Assessment and Rapid Entire Body Assessment to assess risk. Moreover, a questionnaire was developed to obtain feedback from participants on their perceptions toward the designed VR application, which further supported the success of using the proposed VR-based ergonomic assessment method.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: