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Participatory ergonomics as a return-to-work intervention: A future challenge?

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Author: Anema, J.R. · Steenstra, I.A. · Urlings, I.J.M. · Bongers, P.M. · Vroome, E.M.M. de · Mechelen, W. van
Institution: TNO Arbeid
Source:American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 3, 44, 273-281
Identifier: 237251
doi: DOI:10.1002/ajim.10259
Keywords: Ergonomics · Arbeidsproductiviteit · Disability management · Implementation · Low back pain · Participatory ergonomics · Process · Return-to-work · Satisfaction · Sick leave · Work adjustment · Absenteeism · Clinical article · Disability · Employer · Equipment design · Ergonomics · Organization · Pilot study · Satisfaction · Work · Work resumption · Work schedule · Workplace · Adult · Compliance · Disability Evaluation · Female · Human Engineering · Humans · Low Back Pain · Male · Middle Aged · Netherlands · Patient Acceptance of Health Care · Patient Satisfaction · Pilot Projects · Questionnaires


Background: Participatory ergonomics (PE) are often applied for prevention of low back pain (LBP). In this pilot-study, a PE-program is applied to the disability management of workers sick listed due to LBP. Methods: The process, implementation, satisfaction, and barriers for implementation concerning the PE-program were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively for 35 workers sick listed 2-6 weeks due to LBP and their ergonomists. Results: Two-hundred-and-seventy ergonomic solutions were proposed to the employer. They were targeted more at work design and organization of work (58.9%) than at work-place and equipment design (38.9%). They were planned mostly on a short-term basis (74.8%). Almost half (48.9%) of the solutions for work adjustment were completely or partially implemented within 3 months after the first day of absenteeism. Most workers were satisfied about the PE-program (median score 7.8 on a 10-point scale) and reported a stimulating effect on return-to-work (66.7%). Main obstacles to implementation were technical or organizational difficulties (50.0%) and physical disabilities of the worker (44.8%). Conclusions: This study suggests that compliance, acceptance, and satisfaction related to the PE-program were good for all participants. Almost half of the proposed solutions were implemented. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.