From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

A Simple Assessment Method: Quick Exposure Check (QEC) has been Updated; Additional Validation Studies Released

If you are looking for a ten-minute evaluation method that can be used in a variety of work settings to assess task exposure to musculoskeletal disorder risk factors, the revised Quick Exposure Check (QEC) survey may be your ticket. This tool, created by David, Woods, Li and Buckle provides a weighted score that indicates relative risk of a body region, task, or risk factor. Further, the weighted score can be used to show pre/post intervention impact.

The QEC was introduced in the late 1990’s and recently augmented by new epidemiologic evidence and user feedback. It requires both examiner and worker participation in the evaluation of physical and psychosocial risk factors.

Presented in a recent study as a one page form, The QEC is a compact analysis method that has shown inter/intra-examiner reliability and select validity.

QEC Survey Development

Phase 1

The survey was initially developed from 1996 to 1998, following a series of steps consisting of:

  • Literature Review – Physical and psychosocial risk factors related to WMSDs were identified by examining epidemiological research and evaluating methods used to identify physical work concerns.
  • Practitioner Input – 93 occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals provided their perspective relative to current assessment tools and the design/content of an ideal survey. Opinions were sharpened within focus groups.
  • Survey Verbiage and Design – Verbal assessments were conducted by eight OSH professionals while viewing video of three simulated tasks. This process identified preferred terminology and evaluation structure.
  • Reliability Testing – Inter-examiner and intra-examiner consistency was established by having practitioners evaluate 18 videotaped tasks. Body region exposure score agreement ranged from 64.7% to 80.2% and 66.7% to 76.7% for inter-observer and intra-observer evaluations, respectively. This is considered fair to moderate.
  • Validity Testing – Acceptable percent agreement occurred between SIMI 3D computerized motion analysis and the QEC scores of 18 OSH professionals in assessment of four videotaped tasks (72.3% to 87.5%). Further, percent agreement occurred between the QEC scores of six OSH professionals and expert analysis of 59 videotaped tasks (54.2% to 91.5%).

Phase 2

During 2000-2003, the QEC was refined through:

  • Literature review – Recent research was evaluated to ensure currently identified risk factors were appropriately reflected in the QEC.
  • Practitioner Input – The opinions of seven QEC users were gathered through interviews. A group of eight OSH professionals assessed five manual tasks using the QEC to provide feedback relative to survey content and practitioner guidance.
  • Form Design – A team assessed the design, verbiage, and scoring layout.
  • Trial Use – Following use of the revised QEC to evaluate a task, 10 OSH professionals offered feedback regarding usability.
  • Graphic Design – A graphic designer improved the survey format which was reviewed by 19 professionals.
  • Reliability Testing – After being trained in use of the QEC, six evaluators observed and scored three tasks. Inter-examiner score consistency was assessed and found to be improved over Phase 1 reliability testing.
  • Validity Testing – Seven practitioners and two study team members evaluated five tasks at six worksites. Percent agreement of the survey score between each evaluator was found to be statistically significant. Also, practitioner opinion indicated that the QEC was relatively easy to use, applicable to the workplace, and valuable in conducting assessments.

QEC Content and Application

In the first step of using the QEC, the examiner observes a task and determines the postures/movement frequency of four body areas. Table 1 presents the body part options. Generally, for a given body part, one posture description and one movement frequency is chosen to describe the task.


Body Part

Posture Description

Movement Frequency


Almost neutral

For seated/standing stationary tasks, the back maintains a static position

Moderately flexed or twisted or side bent

For seated/standing stationary tasks, the back does not maintain a static position

Excessively flexed or twisted or side bent

For lifting, pushing/pulling and carrying tasks, back movement is infrequent

For lifting, pushing/pulling and carrying tasks, back movement is frequent

For lifting, pushing/pulling and carrying tasks, back movement is very frequent



At or below waist height


At about chest height


At or above shoulder height

Very frequent



Almost straight wrist

10 times per minute or less

Deviated or bent wrist

11 to 20 times per minute

More than 20 times per minute



Not bent or twisted


Bent or twisted


Table 1:

The second step in using the QEC involves interviewing the worker relative to several key risk factors listed in Table 2.

Risk Factor

Risk Factor Descriptor

Maximum weight handled manually




Very Heavy


Average time spent per day on this task

Less than 2 hours

2 to 4 hours

More than 4 hours


Maximum force level exerted by one hand while performing the task





Visual demand of the task


High (further details requested)


A vehicle is driven

Less than one hour per day or never

Between 1 and 4 hours per day

Move than 4 hours per day


Vibrating tools are used

Less than one hour per day or never

Between 1 and 4 hours per day

Move than 4 hours per day


There is difficulty keeping up with this work task



Often (further details requested)


In general, this job is

Not at all stressful

Mildly stressful

Moderately stressful (further details requested)

Very stressful (further details requested)

Table 2: Options for worker description of the task.

Guidance is given for each risk factor descriptor (i.e., for maximum weight handled, light is 5kg or less, Moderate is 6 to 10 kb, Heavy is 11 to 20 kg, and Very Heavy is more than 20 kg).

 QEC Scoring

While acknowledging that research has indicated combining risk factors increases the incidence of injury, the authors note that proper weighting of various ergonomic concerns remains nebulous. A compromise was developed that allows for a gradient score of combined risk factors. Through addition, a score for a specific body part and a total score for a task can be calculated. Table 3 presents the scoring range of risk factor combinations for specific body regions and other ergonomic concerns.

Body Part or Ergonomic Concern

Risk Factor Combination

Scoring Range


Back Posture and Weight

2 – 12

Back Posture and Duration

2 – 10

Duration and Weight

2 – 12

Static Posture and Duration

2 – 8

Dynamic Posture Frequency and Weight

2 – 12

Dynamic Posture Frequency and Duration

6 – 10



Height and Weight

2 – 12

Height and Duration

2 – 10

Duration and Weight

2 – 12

Frequency and Weight

2 – 12

Frequency and Duration

2 – 10



Repeated Motion and Force

2 – 10

Repeated Motion and Duration

2 – 10

Duration and Force

2 – 10

Wrist Posture and Force

2 – 8

Wrist Posture and Duration

2 – 8



Neck Posture and Duration

2 – 10

Visual Demand and Duration

2 – 8




1 – 9




1 – 9


Work Pace

Difficulty in Maintaining

1 – 9


Work Stress


1 – 16

Table 3: Scoring range of risk factor combinations for specific body regions/other ergonomic concerns.

Study Concerns/Limitations

Validity testing for the QEC has not occurred relative to injury prediction/association. Only two psychosocial factors are evaluated by this survey. Driving is considered to be a significant risk factor yet not supported in the article with epidemiological studies.

Other Points

A Reference Guide is offered ( to optimize examiner proficiency in using this tool.


Article Title: The development of the Quick Exposure Check (QEC) for assessing exposure to risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Authros: G David, V Woods, G Li, and P Buckle

Publication: Applied Ergonomics 39, 57-69, 2008

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2007-12-13.