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Effects of an ergonomic intervention for computer work.

Rempel DM; Krause N; Goldberg R; Benner D; Hudes M; Goldner G
Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R01-OH-004253, 2005 Feb; :1-40
Customer service work at computers is associated with elevated rates of upper body musculoskeletal disorders. This randomized controlled intervention trial evaluated the effects of a wide forearm support surface and a trackball on upper body pain severity and incident musculoskeletal disorders among 182 customer service operators at a large HMO who were randomized to receive (1) ergonomics training only, (2) training plus a trackball, (3) training plus a forearm support, or (4) training plus a trackball and forearm support. If the participant's weekly pain severity or medication usage exceeded a priori criteria an upper body physical examination was performed. Analyses using Cox proportional hazard models and linear regression models adjusted for demographic factors, baseline pain levels, and psychosocial job factors. Within 12 months post intervention 63 participants were diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder in the upper extremities or the neck-shoulder region. Adjusted hazard rate ratios show a protective effect of the arm board for neck-shoulder disorders (HR = 0.49, 95% C.I. = 0.24 to 0.97). The armboard also significantly reduced neck-shoulder pain and right upper extremity pain in comparison to the control group. The findings of the trackball intervention were mixed. A return-on-investment model predicted a full return of armboard and installation costs within 2.4 months. Providing a large forearm support combined with ergonomic training is an intervention that can prevent upper body musculoskeletal disorders and reduce upper body pain associated with computer work.
Ergonomics; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Control-technology; Engineering-controls; Cumulative-trauma; Cumulative-trauma-disorders; Repetitive-work; Injury-prevention; Epidemiology; Statistical-analysis; Demographic-characteristics; Neck-injuries
Ergonomics Program, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 1301 South 46th Street, Building 163, Richmond, CA 94804
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Final Grant Report
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NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Research Tools and Approaches: Intervention Effectiveness Research
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
University of California-San Francisco, Richmond, California
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division