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Effectiveness of a participatory ergonomics intervention in improving communication and psychosocial exposures

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A participatory ergonomics programme was implemented in an automotive parts manufacturing factory in which an ergonomics change team was formed, composed of members from management, the organized labour union and the research team. It was hypothesized that the participatory nature of this change process would result in enhanced worker perceptions of workplace communication dynamics, decision latitude and influence, which in conjunction with anticipated mechanical exposure reductions would lead to reduced worker pain severity. Utilizing a sister plant in the corporation as a referent group, a quasi-experimental design was employed with a longitudinal, repeat questionnaire approach to document pre-post intervention changes. Nine participatory activities (psychosocial interventions) were implemented as part of the process. Communication dynamics regarding ergonomics were significantly enhanced at the intervention plant compared to the referent plant. However, there were no significantly different changes in worker perceptions of decision latitude or influence between the two plants, nor did pain severity change. Possible explanations for these results include limited intervention intensity, context and co-intervention differences between the two plants, high plant turnover reducing the statistical power of the study and lack of sensitivity and specificity in the psychosocial measures used. Further research should include the development of psychosocial tools more specific to participatory ergonomic interventions and the assessment of the extent of change in psychosocial factors that might be associated with improvements in pain.
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Keywords: Communication; Intervention; Musculoskeletal disorders; Participatory; Psychosocial risk factors

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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