On the identification and prevention of ergonomic risk factors with special regard to reported occupational injuries of the musculo-skeletal system

Abstract: A checklist for the screening of ergonomic risks was designed, evaluated and applied at work place assessments. Training for measurements for the revised NIOSH lifting equation was described and the inter-observer reliability discussed. With a view to prevention and with an age perspective, 1 600 extual descriptions of slip trip and fall accidents were studied. Older people reported accidents of this kind more often than younger, but as regards contributing factors there were no considerable age differences in the studied material. Reports (n=195) on occupational musculo-skeletal injury from men and women with different occupations were collected consecutively, with he purpose to investigate the effect on ergonomic conditions by Labour Inspectorate intervention and to follow health and employment among injured. Fifteen Labour Inspectors investigated half of the reports by work place visits. The other half was kept for control. The inspectors were trained in ergononmics and performed the work place assessment by means of the mentioned checklist. All work places were later visited by ergonomists to evaluate possible improvements in ergonomic conditions. Due to turn-over and prolonged sick-leaves, evaluations were performed for only 92 of the injured. At 160 work places there were coworkers, who at the time of the injury report had performed similar tasks as the injured. Evaluations were performed also for these groups. As regards ergonomic improvements, there were no differences between the injured in study and control groups. For co-workers there was a significant positive association between delivered inspection notices and improved ergonomic conditions. The cost benefit of preventive measures was investigated by interviews with representatives at four companies. The ergonomic situation had caused repeated sick-leave periods, but only the report triggered the preventive measures. Expenses associated with the ergonomic improvements were accounted for and financial effects estimated. When costs were compared to gains, the improvements appeared to be highly profitable. Three years after the time of the reports a postal questionnaire on health, psychological well-being and employment was distributed to the injured. The response rate was high. There was a significantly higher prevalence of musculo-skeletal and psychological symptoms in the study group, compared to data from other populations. Activities in daily life were more restricted in the study group. After three years 109 people were in active employment. The association between reduced physical work load and active employment, and both individual and work related characteristics was analysed. The odds for improved ergonomic conditions were increased where the employer had given an informative injury description in the injury report. Prolonged sick-leaves had a significant negative association with active employment, whereas male sex and higher education had a positive association. Identification of ergonomic risk factors seemed to have a positive influence on the process of prevention.

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