Characterizing the intensity of changes made to reduce mechanical exposure

Work. 2009;34(2):179-93. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2009-0915.


Interventions to prevent musculoskeletal disorders by reducing mechanical exposures may range from equipment adjustments, through changing workstations and equipment or implementing administrative controls, to the design and redesign of work processes. Although generally positive, the literature reports mixed results for the effects of such workplace interventions on musculoskeletal disorders. We propose that an important factor which influences these results is the change intensity. This construct includes: the body part(s) affected, the size of exposure magnitude reduction in the particular task or tasks involved in the change, the time fraction of the job to which the change applies, the coverage of the change (proportion of the workforce affected), and the adherence (if applicable) by the workforce to the change. The intensities of changes recently completed as part of a participatory ergonomics research program were characterized using this approach. Intensity scores were estimated based upon these parameters for peak and cumulative mechanical exposures. Changes affecting a production system re-design and re-configuration were judged to have medium to high intensity, while most other changes were judged to be of small intensity. Comparisons are made to the intensity of changes determined from reports in the published literature. Factors which maximize intensity as well as potential barriers to achieving higher intensities are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ergonomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Man-Machine Systems*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Organizational Innovation