Quantification and Evaluation of Physical Shoulder Exposures in Police Mobile Data Terminal Operators
McKinnon, Colin David
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Mobile police officers perform many of their daily duties within vehicles. Combined workspace inflexibility and prolonged driving exposure creates a risk for developing musculoskeletal issues. Limited research exists that quantitatively describes postural and load exposures associated with mobile police work. This study characterized officer activity during a typical workday and recommended a cruiser configuration that minimized musculoskeletal risk through laboratory quantification of physical loading during simulated police patrol tasks. A field study captured and analyzed digital video of traffic constables (N = 10) using custom Regional Enforcement Activity Characterization Tool (REACT) software. Mobile data terminal use represented over 13% of in-car activity time and was identified as a primary site for targeted design change. A laboratory study included 20 (10 male, 10 female) participants aged 18-35 with no recent history of right upper limb or low back disorder. Five mobile data terminal (MDT) locations and two driver seat designs were tested in two simulated police patrol testing sessions in a custom driving simulator. A self-selected mobile data terminal location reduced mean right shoulder elevation angle as well as perceived discomfort in both the low back and right shoulder relative to all other tested locations. Muscle activity was lowest at the self-selected location and current MDT location for all recorded muscles, with significant effects shown in posterior deltoid (p < .0001) and supraspinatus (p < .0001). Using a global ranking system, the self-selected location was identified as the best of all tested locations, followed by the current mobile data terminal location. The ALS driver seat effectively reduced discomfort (p < .0001) in the low back during a simulated police patrol session from 15.4mm in the Crown Victoria seat to 11.1mm on a VAS scale. Under these experimental conditions, a self-selected MDT and ALS driver seat reduced discomfort and physical loading compared to the current configuration.