MEGAPHYS - Multilevel risk assessment of physical workload

Project No. IFA 4201


completed 03/2020


The MEGAPHYS project for further development of risk assessments for physical workloads was conducted jointly by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) and the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). The purpose of this joint research project was to develop a comprehensive inventory of methods for conducting company risk assessments of tasks associated with physical workloads caused by manual handling of loads, repetitive work processes, tasks in which strength is a major factor, constrained postures, movement-intensive tasks and combined workloads arising in mixed forms of work. A particular aspect of the research project was the development of scientifically validated evaluation metrics and production of a coordinated inventory of methods employing multiple degrees of differentiation of the risk assessment (special screening, expert screening, metrological analysis in the field and laboratory). Experts from the spheres of human factors, occupational medicine, biomechanics, ergonomics and occupational physiology worked on further development of these methods.


The joint project was divided into seven work packages (WPs). The planned studies were based upon a detailed literature survey of existing analysis, evaluation and assessment procedures (WP 1) and a status analysis of the incidence of physical workloads in the working environment (WP 2). These outcomes served as a basis for preliminary designs of evaluation models for a range of risk factors (e.g. lifting, carrying, pulling or pushing of loads, repetition, exertion of force), target organs (e.g. back, upper and lower extremities), target groups (e.g. employers, OSH experts, researchers) and degrees of complexity (e.g. simple screening, measurement-based analysis) (WP 3). Following field trials of the preliminary method designs by a number of user groups (e.g. OSH professional, supervisor; WP 4), they were adapted and evaluated in a comprehensive cross-sectional study (WP 5 and WP 6). For this purpose, the workload situation at some 200 workplaces was analysed from a human factors perspective against the developed inventory of methods and evaluated with respect to the risks to health. At the same time, over 800 employees were surveyed at their workplaces with respect to their workload and complaints, and the health of their musculoskeletal systems was examined by medical staff. This enabled the relationships between the results of workload evaluation and any health impairments to be analysed. Finally, the results were summarized, documented and classified (WP 7). With the exception of WP 2, the IFA was substantially involved in all work packages and, together with the BAuA, assumed the task of organizing the project and coordinating the individual research partners. The focus of the IFA's activities in method development lay in particular upon use of the CUELA system for measurement-based analysis.


The outcome of the MEGAPHYS project was a coordinated package of instruments, trialled and evaluated in the field and in the laboratory, for use in preventive occupational safety and health for the purposes of assessing risks associated with physical workload. The different levels of detail of the new methods and further developments of existing methods ensure that the varying requirements in the field in terms of accuracy and complexity of the workload analysis are met.

This particularly applies to the strategy of metrological evaluation by means of CUELA. The new CUELA evaluation concept includes established methods, modified procedures and new evaluation strategies. Including the distinction between the left and right-hand sides of the body, a total of 28 workload indicators were defined. These include approaches from the perspective of biomechanics and performance physiology, and specifically concern the following body regions: neck/cervical spine, shoulders/upper arms, elbows/lower arms, hands/wrists, lower back/lumbar spine, hips and knees. Indicators were also defined for workload analysis with regard to the cardiovascular system and activity energy expenditure.

This is the first comprehensive and evaluated concept of its kind for evaluation of workload data obtained from measurements. The CUELA evaluation strategies enable workload and risk foci to be identified objectively and in detail. Where selective prevention measures are required, this serves as a very good basis. The CUELA evaluation strategies are suitable for use during risk assessments relating to physical workload. Besides the use of comprehensive expert measuring systems, the use of simple systems employing low numbers of sensors for the analysis of individual body regions is also planned. These systems are intended to permit simpler use in companies and in turn to enable evaluation strategies based upon measured data to be established on a wider scale in preventive OSH activity in the future.

The MEGAPHYS project results have been published in two volumes. In addition to principles and cross-project results, Volume 1 contains a presentation of the results obtained by the special screening methods. Volume 2 contains the results of the expert screening methods, metrological analysis and laboratory simulation.

Last Update:

15 Sep 2020


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
  • Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (BAuA)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (BAuA)
  • Institut für Arbeitsmedizin, Sicherheitstechnik und Ergonomie (ASER), Wuppertal
  • Institut für Arbeitswissenschaft der Technischen Universität Darmstadt (IAD)
  • Leibniz-Institut für Arbeitsforschung an der TU Dortmund (IfADo)
  • ARBMEDERGO, Hamburg

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards, handling of loads, muliple exposures multiple strain


risk assessment

Description, key words:

physical stresses, risk assessment, inventory of methods

Further information

Project FF-FP 0358: MEGAPHYS – Development of a compendium of methods for the analysis of the risks induced by physical exposures – A cooperative study of BAuA and DGUV