Anthropometry – A dataset for safety!







It is derived from the Greek word Anthropos – “Man” and Metron – “Measurement”. It is a branch of anthropology that involves the quantitative measurement of the human body.

There have been several definitions of Anthropometry over the years. However, the definition by Pheasant and Haslegrave (2006) speaks it all. He defined “anthropometry” as


‘The branch of human sciences that deals with

body measurements: particularly with

measurements of body size, shape, strength

and working capacity’

The various types of anthropometric data set may include the “structural” and “functional” anthropometric data.

In applying anthropometric measurements  to occupational injury prevention, they are used to study the interaction of workers with tasks, machines, tools, vehicles, and personal protective equipment(PPE) — especially to determine the degree of protection against dangerous exposures, whether chronic or acute. Since we are designing for people, it is important we understand the human’s physical attributes/characteristics so as to fit jobs to workers and not fitting workers to the job.


The Importance of Anthropometry for the Safety Professional

Designs that are incompatible with normal anthropometric measurements of a workforce may result in unwanted incidents.

  • The misfit of a heavy equipment cabin to a worker may produce operator blind spots that expose workers on foot to struck-by injuries.
  • Inadequate length or configuration of seatbelts may lead to non-use of seatbelts, which affect post-crash survivability.
  • Inadequate fit of personal protective equipment cannot provide workers with sufficient protection from health and injury exposures.
  • Workers get frustrated, rendering the equipment, tools, machines , design unused/misused.
  • Users will not buy the design, Loss of revenue from sales, Damage to reputation and a possible lawsuit.

Existing data on the size and shape of industrial workers is limited/does not exist. Because of the lack of anthropometric data for the general worker population, safety researchers have generally relied on data drawn from safety institutions from other countries. This is totally wrong!

The design myth is that anthropometric data are universal. Moreover, anthropometry are simply only specific to the populations which they describe and percentiles are only specific to the dimension they describe.


Why the need for anthropometric dataset?

  • Forensics…!!!
  • Nutrition and health status of populations/individuals e.g. children (growth, development)
  • Populations/individuals and design e.g. Military (uniforms, PPE, tanks, helicopters,

parachute harnesses, field hospital theatres), Hospitals (bed design, gloves, wards, operation theatres, ambulance, drug package,  Heavy industries (cockpit, conveyor belt, work station), Transport (Vehicle interior, Trains, Planes, control panel dimension), Apparel industries (shoes, shirts, trousers), just to mention a few.


The fact still remains that a substantial anthropometric variability exists among the Nigerian workforce populations. Dreyfuss (2002) highlighted  three categories of human variability


  • Intra-individual: size changes during adult life
  • Inter-individual: differences due to sex and ethnic origin
  • Secular variability: changes from generation to generation

Industrial workers, such as the agriculture, truck driver, and fire-fighter workforces, are also anthropometrically very different from the average civilian population (Hsiao et al, 2002).

Interestingly, the statistics from the national bureau of statistics shows the increasing dominance of the female and the ageing workers in recent times. There are diverse workforces in many occupations, as well as new roles for women in the workforce which will require body-size data for designing adequate workplaces, systems, and personal protective equipment. In the past, variance in body dimensions was typically reported as means and standard deviations for various body segments (Roebuck et al., 1975). This approach was successful in generating broad parameters for personal protective equipment (PPE) sizing but was deficient in generating the detailed fit information needed for workplace, PPE, and other equipment designs. Percentiles(5th-95th Percentiles) are now used to ensure fit/inclusiveness.

 Bench Heights – Standing work (Grandjean, 1988)

For example, the dimensions given above and any reference given from international standards can not be used for the Nigerian population since it is not from our dataset. This only tells us all that the bases for most regulations, guidelines and standards lie with the generation and exploration of the anthropometric data set.


Technological development in recent years has advanced the basic science of human size and shape studies in 3-dimensional forms (3D). Also, computer-generated human models are now available for anthropometric analysis. These advances in anthropometric science and computer-based human-form modelling have opened various research avenues for improving workplace and protective equipment design as well as anthropometric fit within complex systems.


What are the current trend in anthropometry research?

Anthropometric design procedures must take into consideration the large variation in dimensions from person to person and from population to population. In the research area of applied anthropometry, collecting and use of 3D anthropometric data have become a norm, which will ultimately result in a better fit between workers and their tools, systems, and work environments.

Several researches and publications have been made. Here are three examples of such:

Up-to-date anthropometric information (body dimensions) of the U.S. fire-fighter population is needed for updating ergonomic and safety specifications for fire apparatus and fire-fighter protective equipment for the U.S. market. Seventy-one measurements relevant to the design of seats, seat belts, cabs, turnout gear, gloves, and head-and-face gear were presented. The data obtained provided the first available U.S. national fire-fighter anthropometric information which will benefit the design of future fire apparatus and protective equipment to better protect fire-fighters.

  • Anthropometric Database for the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the United States: Deaths or serious injuries among EMTs and other ambulance occupants occur at a high rate during transport. According to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), EMTs and paramedics have higher fatality rates when compared to all workers, with 45% of EMT deaths resulting from highway incidents, primarily due to vehicle collisions. Data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration revealed that among the persons killed in crashes involving an ambulance between 1992 and 2011, twenty one percent were EMTs and patients, while 4% were ambulance drivers. To reduce injury potential to the EMTs and other ambulance occupants, the Department of Homeland Security, NIOSH, the U.S. General Services Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with private industry partners, have committed to improving the workspace design of ambulance patient compartments for safe and effective performance. Up-to-date EMT anthropometric data were needed for this effort. Between December 2013 and May 2015, NIOSH conducted a nationwide anthropometric survey of 472 male and 161 female EMTs in the continental U.S. A total of 40 measurements (39 body dimensions and weight) were taken on the basis of their utility in facilitating the patient compartment design. All measurements were taken while participants wore lab attire (shorts for men; shorts and sports bras for women), and assumed either a standing or seated posture. The current database consists of summary statistics (mean, standard deviation, standard error, N, and percentiles) of all 40 measurements in both metric and English units.
  • Anthropometric Study of U.S. Truck Drivers: Methods, Summary Statistics, and Multivariate Accommodation Models: Up-to-date anthropometric data, which plays an important role in improving ergonomic design of truck cabs, has not been collected for decades, NIOSH launched the first-ever federal anthropometric study of U.S. truck drivers. This document summarizes the results of the study that, we hope, will be used by truck manufacturers, parts suppliers, transportation researchers, fleet managers, and other interested parties for decades to come.

In summary, I believe the importance of an accurate anthropometric analysis in all spheres of life can not be over emphasised. Since we do not have this data set for now, my advice is to ensure a bespoke design so as to enable fitting the job to the worker.

Durowoju Oluwatobi is C.E.O, DUERGO LIMITED. He is an ergonomics specialist with an astute knowledge in work place research and design having completed a master’s degree in ergonomics for health and community care.