A framework for performing workplace hazard and risk analysis: a participative ergonomics approach

In recent years there has been a significant increase in reporting musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) arising from ergonomics hazards and risks in the workplace. According to Praemer et al, MSDs affect 7% of the population, and are the cause of 70 million physician visits in the US annually and of 19% hospital stays.

Research shows that to reduce MSDs, there is a need for proactive intervention, an approach which engages workers in improving their workplace. Such an interventional approach, which has grown considerably over the past few years, is known as ‘participatory ergonomics’ (PE).

Despite the unanimity among researchers about the centrality of workplace analysis based on participatory ergonomics (PE) as a basis for preventive interventions, there is still little agreement about the necessary of a theoretical framework for providing practical guidance.

In an effort to develop a conceptual PE framework, the authors, focusing on 20 studies, found five primary dimensions for characterising an analytical structure: (1) extent of workforce involvement; (2) analysis duration; (3) diversity of reporter role types; (4) scope of analysis and (5) supportive information system for analysis management. An ergonomics analysis carried out in a chemical manufacturing plant serves as a case study for evaluating the proposed framework. The study simultaneously demonstrates the five dimensions and evaluates their feasibility.

Essential to successfully implementing the analytical framework are managerial involvement, participation of all job holders and simplified reporting methods.