From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Participatory Process Leads To Improvement In Work Organization Factors and Health Outcomes

Analysis of a participatory ergonomic intervention conducted at a courier company depot revealed a strong association between the implementation process (quality/extent of changes, extend of participation) and changes in select work organization risk factors (increased job influence, greater employee-manager communication).   Improved work organizational exposures (increase in job influence, greater employee-manager communication and better perceptions regarding the company’s health and safety practices) were related to decreased employee reported pain incidence/severity/work relatedness.  Further, greater company communication and improved health and safety perceptions were associated with improved job function (less time at work limited by musculoskeletal pain).


Following a cohort longitudinal design, two similar but separate courier depots were identified.  An ergonomics change team (ECT) was created at the intervention depot composed of seven worker representatives, a unit manager, an administrative assistant, a human resource manager, a corporate health and safety regional manager an ergonomic facilitator.  ECT members underwent 24 hours of ergonomic training to provide skills of risk factor identification, evaluation and control.


Interventions became generated from a multi-step process: problem identification, problem assessment, solution building, solution testing and implementation.  Fourteen changes were made at the intervention depot including workstation modifications, new/redesigned tools and work method adjustments. 


To assess intervention impact, questionnaires were completed by subjects from both the intervention and reference depots at pre and post intervention times.   When eliminating workers who were not present at the depots for the entire test time, the sample size was comprised of 71 intervention depot subjects and 51 control depot subjects.


The implementation process (quality/extent of changes, extend of participation) had little impact on job physical demands and employee reported pain.  Also, reduced physical demands were unrelated to pain levels or improvements in job function in this study.


The authors felt study findings may have been affected by:

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2006-11-15.