The purpose of this research is to reduce the risk of occupational injury and illness to employees who telecommute from their homes (telework). The rapid growth of teleworking has raised several social and legal issues regarding an employer's responsibility for an employee's home office. OSHA policy states that employers are not responsible for home offices; yet, teleworkers may be more at risk from occupational safety and health hazards than their coworkers who commute. In a traditional workplace, risk factors are controlled or eliminated by the employer, building owner, or fire marshal. In the home workplace, employees must control or eliminate risk factors on their own. During Phase I, researchers worked with a group of multidisciplinary experts to define the major occupational injury and illness prevention topics that affect home-based workers. The team developed a curriculum outline for teleworkers consisting of six modules. Module topics for teleworkers are - office ergonomics, fire safety, electrical safety, air quality/radon, falls/tripping and safety roles and responsibilities for telework program managers. As a prototype, researchers developed a detailed curriculum guide for the module on ergonomics and a computer-based training module titled "Ergonomics for Teleworkers" delivered on CD-ROM. Researchers piloted tested the ergonomics CD-ROM. Study participants included 1 02 teleworkers who completed an on-line preregistration form. Participants were randomly assigned into a treatment (n = 51) or control (n = 51) group. Of the 1 02 teleworkers who completed the on-line registration form, 51 completed the study as a member of the treatment group (n = 28) or control group (n = 23). The treatment group completed the ergonomics training and a pre- and post-test. The control group completed the pre- and post-tests without training. The study demonstrated the need for teleworker ergonomics training. More than 85% of participants had not received teleworker training before and 44% had experienced pain or discomfort while teleworking. Treatment group participants significantly improved their scores from pre- to post-test. Differences between the pre- and post-test mean scores were significant for the total score (t = 12.14, df= 27, P = .0005), for the Knowledge subtest (t = 8.36, df= 27, P = .0005), for the Attitudes sub-test (t = 7.29, df= 27, P = .0005) and for the Practices sub-test (t = 9.68, df= 27, P = .0005). Differences between mean scores for the Control Group were not significant for the total score or for any of the subtests. During Phase II, researchers will develop the four remaining teleworker safety training modules and a fifth module for managers. Following a pilot-test of the new materials, researchers will conduct a national field test. Each module will have a CD-ROM and web-based format. The modules will combine text, graphics, sound, color illustrations, and animation to provide a fully interactive, media-rich learning environment. The web-based version of the training will take advantage of the latest advances in distance learning technology, including streaming media. Pre and post-tests will be included, either on the CD-ROM or on-line as part of each module. Learners will be able to print out and save certificates of completion that they can e-mail to their managers to receive credit for completing the training.
Harrington Software Associates, Inc., 7431 Wilson Road, Warrenton, VA 20186-7464
Harrington Software Associates, Inc., Warrenton, Virginia