Effects of a participatory ergonomics team among hospital orderlies

Am J Ind Med. 1999 Apr;35(4):358-65. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199904)35:4<358::aid-ajim6>3.0.co;2-r.


Background: High rates of work-related injuries are seen among health care workers involved in lifting and transferring patients. We studied the effects of a participatory worker-management ergonomics team among hospital orderlies.

Methods: This prospective intervention trial examined work injuries and other outcomes before and after the intervention, with other hospital employees used as a concurrent control. All orderlies in a 1,200-bed urban hospital were studied using passively collected data (mean employment during study period 100-110 orderlies); 67 orderlies (preintervention) and 88 orderlies (postintervention) also completed a questionnaire. The intervention was the formation of a participatory ergonomics team with three orderlies, one supervisor, and technical advisors. This team designed and implemented changes in training and work practices.

Results: The 2-year postintervention period was marked by decreased risks of work injury (RR = 0.50, 95% CI 0.35-0.72), lost time injury (RR = 0.26, 95% CI 0.14-0.48), and injury with three or more days of time loss (RR = 0.19, 95% CI 0.07-0.53). Total lost days declined from 136.2 to 23.0 annually per 100 full-time worker equivalents (FTE). Annual workers' compensation costs declined from $237/FTE to $139/FTE. The proportion of workers with musculoskeletal symptoms declined and there were statistically significant improvements in job satisfaction, perceived psychosocial stressors, and social support among the orderlies.

Conclusion: Substantial improvements in health and safety were seen following implementation of a participatory ergonomics program.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Back Injuries / epidemiology
  • Back Injuries / prevention & control
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Institutional Management Teams*
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Knee Injuries / epidemiology
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control
  • Lifting / adverse effects
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Personnel, Hospital*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Workers' Compensation / economics