Evaluation of physical loads in virtual reality for conceptual work design

Project No. IFA 0507




Today, digital simulations make it possible to integrate ergonomic evaluation procedures and risk assessments at an early stage in workplace planning. Digital work planning shortens planning and control processes. This involves creating a copy of the workplace in digital space (so-called digital twin). Not having to implement the new workstation in a real model (physical mockup) further shortens and streamlines the planning process. However, this also eliminates the possibility of testing the ergonomic aspects of the workplace under near-real conditions.

Virtual reality (VR) can be used to bring the digital twin to life through the possibility of interaction. Linking VR with motion analysis via motion-capturing systems (MoCap) also enables the application of measurement-based procedures for the risk assessment of physical stress in virtual work environments. It, therefore, appears to be a promising approach for the early identification of potentially hazardous workloads.

A risk assessment of stressful postures and movements performed in a virtual environment is all the more valid the more exactly the movement sequences correspond to those in real environments. For the ergonomics assessment/hazard assessment in virtual work environments, it is crucial to know whether there are any deviations compared to the real movement execution and whether the possibly deviating movement execution also leads to a changed assessment. For this purpose, it must be investigated which kinematic parameters can differ in the execution of movements in virtual and real working environments and which distortions in the assessment are possible. From this, criteria for selecting suitable hazard assessment procedures in virtual environments can be derived.


In preparation for the investigations and to obtain an application overview, a literature research on the current use of VR in ergonomic assessment methods shall be conducted first. This should be done according to the "PEROSH Clearinghouse for systematic reviews" and provide application insights, applied ergonomic assessment methods, and implementation in virtual environments.

The comparison of movement executions during occupational activities in real and virtual environments is to be carried out within the framework of a laboratory study. Cross-industry activities that are stressful for the lower back and shoulder-arm areas, such as moving loads or overhead work, will be investigated. The spectrum from low to high-stress levels is simulated in a standardized course with typical activities for these key stress areas. The system is implemented in a real and virtual working environment. The virtual work environment will be developed with the Unity runtime and development environment using the Steam-VR API. The interaction is done via a head-mounted display.

A subject collective (N ≈ 25) completes the course in both environments, while the performed movements are recorded with a MoCap system and evaluated with standardized evaluation procedures (CUELA MEGAPHYS). Kinematic data and results of the evaluation procedures are statistically analyzed comparatively for the investigations in real and virtual environments.

Last Update:

22 Aug 2023


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft Holz und Metall (BGHM)
  • Universität Trier

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


workplace design, risk assessment, ergonomics

Description, key words:

Virtual reality, risk assessment, ergonomics, digital simulation, digital twin