ITHACA, N.Y. -- A collaborative project between Alan Hedge, a Cornell University professor, and New Jersey health and safety researchers Mary Rudakewych and Lisa Valent-Weitz has found that workers who use proper ergonomic products and are trained in their use report an average 40 percent decline in musculoskeletal problems within eight months.
"This study provides compelling evidence that comprehensive ergonomics intervention can be very beneficial for employees and employers alike," says Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell and director of Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory. Although previous studies have looked at the benefits of specific products, such as a negative-slope keyboard or an ergonomic chair, little research has involved the impact of coordinated ergonomic intervention that also includes ergonomic training.
In the new study, published in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 45th Annual Meeting -- 2001 , Hedge and his two co-authors surveyed 356 office workers at four locations in New Jersey's Office of Information Technology, Trenton, about their workstations, work habits and musculoskeletal symptoms.
Each workstation was fitted with a negative-slope keyboard with an upper mouse tray and workers were given an ergonomic chair. Each worker also received ergonomics training that involved instruction on strategies to prevent injury, on proper posture, proper use of keyboard trays and ergonomic chairs. The workers were surveyed again eight months later.
The researchers found that almost half the workers had fewer back and elbow problems; about 45 percent reported fewer problems with eyes, upper arms, shoulders and feet; and 40 percent had fewer problems with forearms, hands and neck. "At the start of the study only 16 percent of workers didn't have symptoms, but eight months later this number had grown to more than 40 percent. These results confirm that good ergonomic interventions really work," says Hedge. The study was led by Rudakewych and Valent-Weitz of the New Jersey Department of Personnel, Health and Safety.
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