Effectiveness of an active ergonomics training program for computer users
Greene, Brenda Lee
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Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are recognized as an occupational epidemic with substantial impact on individual health and corporate wellbeing. Primary and secondary prevention of WMSDs is an essential task for many occupational safety and health professionals. Identification of strategies to effectively prevent and manage WMSDs are in the preliminary stages and no intervention or combination of interventions has emerged as optimal. The purpose of this research was to investigate the effectiveness of an active ergonomics training (AET) intervention. A prospective two-group randomized design was used. Eighty-seven symptomatic and asymptomatic University of Georgia employees (70 female, 17 male) who worked at a computer for a minimum of 10 hours per week participated in the study. Subjects participated in a six-hour group training intervention at their workplace. Key elements of the AET intervention were skill development in workstation analysis, active participation, and integration of multiple prevention strategies. Workstation observations to measure the risk for cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) were done pre- and post-intervention using the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA). All other outcomes were measured by survey: symptoms, knowledge, self-efficacy, outcome expectations, work pressure, perceived organizational support, and workstation control and autonomy. The ANCOVA procedure, using the baseline measures as the covariate, was used to determine the postintervention differences between the groups for all outcomes except symptoms. Symptoms were analyzed with the Mann-Whitney U test statistic. After receiving AET, risk factor exposure was significantly reduced for participants at higher risk (RULA score of 4.62 and above) [F(1,82)= 6.42, p<.01]. Significant increases in knowledge [F(1,74)=8.39, p<.01], self-efficacy [F(1,73)=6.95, p<.01], and outcome expectations [F(1,75)=8.75, p<.01] were also found after AET. Additionally, the AET intervention had a positive impact on the way participants organized their work and on the initiation of exercise. There were no significant differences between the intervention and control groups for musculoskeletal symptoms, workstation control and autonomy, organizational support, and work pressure following the training. The primary conclusion from this study is that active ergonomics training was effective in decreasing exposure to risk factors for CTDs in computer users.