Hand arm risk-assessment method (HARM)

What is the purpose of HARM?

HARM is an instrument for determining the risk of arm, neck or shoulder complaints when performing tasks that predominately involve the use of the hands or arms.

The method helps you:

  • gain an insight into what health risks the work may entail;
  • identify the most important risk factors associated with the work;
  • determine which intervention measures are likely to have the most benefit (that is to say, whether they reduce the risk of injury).

The assessment is carried out on each task, i.e. specific to the task not the employee and it is not performed on each workstation or every day. It is important to check whether a job involves several high risk tasks over the course of a work shift. If this is the case, it may be necessary to consult an expert in the area of physical workplace assessments.

HARM is a reliable and relatively simply instrument to use. The method is based on knowledge of risk factors reported in the literature supplemented by expert opinion. The method has been validated. Publications can be found in the menu ‘links’. Dutch users of the method are being asked yearly for their experiences and ideas to improve the method. The results of this investigation are implemented in HARM 2.0. Main changes in HARM 2.0 are: the reduction of the relative weight of task duration (step 1), simplification of force categories (step 3), clarification of two factors within ‘other factors’ and some changes in instructions and the manual.

Read more about the rationale and application in the following articles:

What tasks can HARM be used for?

The method is intended for the assessment of those tasks involving the hands and arms, where lower leg and torso activity is minimal, e.g., tasks involving the assembly or disassembly of components, work undertaken by hairdressers or barbers, the sorting or packaging of products, or sanding/woodwork tasks.

The method should only be used for:

  • tasks that take longer than 1 hour per day in total;
  • tasks involving one handed force exertions of less than 6 kg/60 N (this is approximately equivalent to a bucket of water that is more than half full); and
  • all hand and arm tasks other than computer work.

The HARM method is unsuitable for tasks that primarily involve activities of the back and/or legs, as is often the case with lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling and working while bent forward, kneeling or crouching.

HARM is suitable for assessing tasks undertaken by adult workers aged between 18 and 67 years, across most industries and service sectors.

Who can use HARM?

Users are those who are responsible for a company’s working conditions, such as injury prevention officers, health and safety coordinators, personnel officers, human resource managers or, in small companies, the directors themselves. Health and safety consultants can also use the HARM method. HARM does not require any specialised, prior knowledge.

Working method

The online HARM assessment involves 6 steps. The assessment is completed by selecting answers or categories in each step of the assessment. The scores of each step are then used to calculate the total risk score, which determines whether a health risk is present or not.

You can also use the paper-based HARM assessment, which involves 8 steps.

How much time is needed for an assessment?

The first assessment of a task often takes about one hour to complete. However, following tasks usually often take much less time to complete, usually be about 30 minutes, depending on the number of actions and the information available. Steps 3 and 4 often take longer to complete than any of the other steps.