Ergonomics done right.®
December 14th, 2017

Ergo U: Auburn University: Fatigue Failure Process for Musculoskeletal Tissue Damage

In the series Ergo U:  Ergonomics Research Notes from the Field, Humantech ergonomist Blake McGowan meets with ergonomics researchers from leading universities and associations across the country to share their latest findings.


Dr. Gallagher (left), McGowan (center), and Dr. Thomas (right)


Field Notes:  Recently, Blake had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Sean Gallagher, Dr. Robert Thomas, Dr. Richard Sesek, and Dr. Mark Schall from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Auburn University to learn about the mounting evidence that suggests that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a result of a fatigue failure process in the musculoskeletal tissue.

Blake’s Take:  “It was a pleasure discussing the merits of fatigue failure as a process for tissue damage and the implications it has on the management of MSDs. I think these findings will lead to new risk management approaches and tools that will help practitioners detect the highest risks in the workplace. This process explains the strong interdependence between forceful exertions and repetition with respect to the development of MSDs. Basically, the highest magnitude forceful exertion during a worker’s day has the biggest impact on his or her daily tissue damage. This finding provides tremendous insight into the cause of MSDs, how best to prioritize jobs and tasks, and how to invest effectively in workplace interventions. It also provides insight into the ineffectiveness of administrative controls, such as job rotation.”

Additional Activities:  

Blake was also able to interact  and present the session, “Lessons Learned as an Ergonomics Consultant,” to both undergraduate and graduate students studying occupational health and safety and ergonomics.

Dr. Gallagher

Expert: Dr. Sean Gallagher (PhD: The Ohio State University) is the researcher behind the fatigue failure process in the musculoskeletal tissues. Through epidemiological, biomaterials testing, and animal studies, he examines the expression of inflammatory mediators and provides evidence to support the theory of musculoskeletal disorder causation.