Evaluating the effectiveness of a participatory ergonomics approach in reducing the risk and severity of injuries from manual handling
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Manual handling is the greatest contributor to non-fatal injury and disease in the workplace, commonly accounting for one-third of national injury counts. Interventional strategies that have focused on selecting or modifying the worker have been ineffective in reducing injury risk. In recent times, participatory ergonomics has been widely adopted as a process to reduce the risk of injury from manual handling but it is not well validated as an intervention. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a participatory ergonomics risk assessment approach in reducing the rate and severity of injuries from manual and non-manual handling sustained by a cohort of 137 cleaners within a hospital setting. The date of injury and the workers' compensation claim cost and hours lost from work were obtained for each injury incurred during the 4-year pre-intervention and 3-year intervention period. The age, gender and hours worked were ascertained for every cleaner whether injured or not. Using generalized linear mixed modelling analysis, reductions of rate of injury by two-thirds, workers' compensation claim costs by 62% and hours lost by 35% for manual handling injuries were found to be associated with the intervention period. Although the cleaners experienced a significant intervention period reduction in non-manual handling injury rate, the corresponding changes in severity of injury were not significant. The success of the intervention supports the adoption of a participatory ergonomics approach in reducing the rate and consequence of injuries in the workplace.
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