Employees who work at a computer workstation are constantly exposed to ergonomic hazards. These hazards could be avoided or minimized if the employees were aware of the ergonomic risk factors associated with computer work and reported the risks to their safety officer, industrial hygienist, or health care provider.
Within the U.S. Army, there is a much effort to integrate ergonomics into the corporate culture so that employees can be educated about work-related musculoskeletal risk factors and ways to avoid injuries. However, the U.S. Army is limited in the amount of resources it can dedicate solely to ergonomics. To overcome this problem, trained ergonomists from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine conducted a study to determine the usefulness of employee self-reporting in assessing the need for workstation adjustments or changes. In the study, employees used the Department of Defense Job Requirements and Physical Demands survey form to respond to questions about job requirements and physical demands. Employees who had little or no formal ergonomics training and whose workstations had not been evaluated by an ergonomist did the self-reporting.
To confirm the results of the self-reporting, the ergonomists performed 94 workstation assessments to determine the limitations of the workstations and compared their findings to the employees' self-reporting of pain, discomfort and risk exposure. The ergonomists standardized their assessments by developing an assessment tool using evaluation criteria based on the International Standards Organization (Ergonomic Requirements for Office Work with Video Display Terminals), American National Standard Institute (American National Standard for Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations) and good ergonomics practice.
The results indicated that deficiencies in workstation design can be identified via employee self-reporting of body part pain, discomfort, and risk exposure. In fact, employees were more likely to recognize workstation limitations and identify symptoms or seek medical treatment than to inform their immediate supervisor of their condition. Therefore, self-reporting of job requirements and physical demands by the employee can be an effective tool in reducing injury risk, identifying employees at a greater risk for an injury, and prioritization of workstations in need of remediation. Through employee self-reporting, the industrial hygienist or safety officer can pinpoint problems quickly and offer troubleshooting solutions to alleviate pain and discomfort until a detailed evaluation can take place.
For more information about USACHPPM ergonomic assessments, contact firstname.lastname@example.org