Malaysia is one of the world's largest producers of palm oil. There is a risk of causing musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) from the movements of palm workers who use chisels and sickles to harvest palm trees. However, most studies use indirect measurements and qualitative methods to determine pain distribution, which is imprecise. Among the latest advances in wearable sensor technology, inertial motion units (IMUs) can directly measure human movement parameters, joint positions, velocities and angles. Wearable surface electromyography (EMG) can also measure the electrical activity generated by skeletal muscles.
Based on this, Malaysian academics have published the first field measurements of hand forces in palm oil harvesters harvesting short and tall palms using chisels and sickles, respectively. Instrumentation was used in this study to capture dynamic hand forces and ground reaction forces in conjunction with Xsens IMU and electromyographic EMG sensors to quantify postural angles and muscle vigor, respectively. Risk of WMSDs was assessed by continuous rapid whole body assessment (REBA) scores and subjective pain scores.