Implementing Ergonomic Design for Microscope Workstations

February 01, 2008

Objective: This study evaluated the effect of an occupational therapy ergonomics intervention on the workstation design and body positioning of microscope workers at a fiber optics facility.

Method: The study was quasi-experimental. Fifty-one microscope workers were assigned to one of three groups: control, education only, and education training. Their workstation design and body positioning were assessed before and after intervention.

Results: Workers who participated in a client-centered, participatory, and onsite ergonomics program demonstrated improved workstation design and improved body positioning compared with both a control group (p = .000) and an education-only group (p = .001). These results were supported through analysis of covariance and effect size calculations. Workers who received only educational handouts also demonstrated improved body positioning and workstation design when compared with the control group (p = .001).

Conclusion: Researchers concluded that participation, client-centered training, context, and feedback represented critical components of ergonomics training.

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Darragh AR, Harrison H and Kenny S:
Effect of an ergonomics intervention on workstations of microscope workers

American Journal of Occupations Therapy 62: 61–69 (2008)

Old habits die hard – this applies to those at home as well as the workplace. Just as getting used to a new couch takes time, changing workstation layout to ergonomic design also needs some adapting to. An American study explored ways to implement ergonomics at a fiber optics facility by creating three groups and concluded that "participation, client-centered training, context, and feedback represented critical components of ergonomics training".

The objective of the study was to find out which effect a combination of occupational therapy and ergonomics had on the workstation design and body positioning of microscope workers. Three groups were formed – one control group (group 1) without any intervention, one group (group 2) who received a printed handout of a slide show presentation comprising health-related knowledge on ergonomics and one group (group 3) who received the same handout, a one-hour training session on the handout with the chance to ask questions plus an individual hands-on training at their specific workstation which lasted for seven to ten minutes.

The study started with a workplace assessment and a survey that evaluated the employees' comfort. Two weeks after this, all participants were tested again. As the researchers expected, group 3 showed the most effect. The researchers attributed this to the incorporation of "the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning" (p. 67) and of the study being "grounded both on the literature and in the philosophies of occupational therapy, ergonomics, and health education" (p. 67). Group 2 showed considerably more effect than expected by the researchers, while group 1 surprisingly showed adverse effects.

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