Musculo-skeletal disease of the upper extremities, and vocational activity

Project No. BGIA 4128


completed 06/2006


In recent years, musculo-skeletal diseases have proved to be a persistent cause of incapacity for work. Approximately half of these disorders and diseases involved the upper extremities. In connection with this issue, practitioners in occupational safety and health complain that the findings and procedures for determining exposure are confusing. The BG Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BGIA) has therefore been conducting intensive work since 1998 on behalf of the BGs in the area of prevention of work-related musculo-skeletal disorders of the upper limb. In the process, insights from the international literature have been noted and incorporated in the course of an ongoing literature survey. They are consolidated and extended by practical experience gained in in-plant consultations and research projects. The objective of this project was to summarize the insights and experience in a BGIA Report, which is intended for any practitioner no matter whether one is approaching this ergonomic issue from a medical or technical perspective.


Based upon early field experience gained from body posture measurements including the upper extremities at workplaces involving repetitive tasks, a selective survey was performed of the international literature. The survey covered the origin and pathology of the observed diseases of the upper extremities, epidemiology with regard to the work-related risk factors, and the assessment methods described in the literature. Practical experience from further in-plant consultations and research projects supplements the theoretical findings. The information was summarized in the planned BGIA Report. The report also presents German translations of selected assessment methods with explanatory procedures for their application.


The project resulted in the preparation of a BGIA Report. The first part of the report deals with the anatomy and physiology of the upper extremities. Possible work-related risk factors and trauma mechanisms from the latest literature are described. Selected methods for measuring and assessing the risk factors are also presented: translations with explanatory procedures make them accessible to German readers for the purpose of application. The second part of the report describes the CUELA measurement system for the shoulder-arm region, developed and extended by the BGIA. The benefits and drawbacks of the assessment methods are discussed with reference to examples from practical application.

Last Update:

2 May 2016


Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Textil- und Bekleidungs-Berufsgenossenschaft

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

mechanical hazards, work-related diseases, work-related health hazards


physical strain/stress, risk assessment, ergonomics

Description, key words:

work-related musculo-skeletal diseases of the upper limb, repetitive tasks, exposure measurement, risk assessment, ergonomic workplace design, prevention