Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are estimated to account for $1 of every $3 spent of workers compensation costs. This accounts for more than $15 to $20 billion in direct costs such as medical bills. In addition to CTDs, computer users may also experience eyestrain, back pain and many other medical problems.
The increased prevalence of CTDs associated with video display terminals and the work environment has been well documented. The problem of CTDs continues to plague business as both a medical issue and performance issue. In the US alone, CTDs account for 5% of non-fatal injuries.
The relationship between computer usage and musculoskeletal complaints continues to be soft, while workers increasingly complain of pain and discomfort with computer usage. Physical and psychosocial work exposures have been shown to be risk factors for low-back pain and neck and upper limb symptoms, with CTS excluded (Aas et al. 2005; Bongers et al. 2006; van Rijn et al. 2009a, 2009b).
The program’s experience indicated that over the past 5 years, the number of office-based worker ergonomic illnesses has been fairly constant with all workplace related injuries/illnesses reflecting a slight increase in the rate from ∼3% to ∼5%. The overall illness severity (measured in days away from work) has been consistent over this same period (∼10% of workplace related office ergonomic illnesses resulted in days away form work). The data indicated the primary medial diagnosis for these musculoskeletal upper limb disorders included carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), tendonitis, and tenosynovitis. The body parts impacted by these illnesses were hands/fingers approximately 65%, arms 25%, and shoulders/neck 01%. Many of these illnesses were experienced by our office based workers whose tasks includes frequent interface with computers and repetitive use of computer input devices.
A recent review of a major oil and gas company office ergonomic program prompted management to request the medical department assistance to review the corporate office ergonomic program to ensure office based activities are performed in a manner thereby reducing or eliminating stress, strain and injury /illness. An inter-professional team was assigned the task to implement the program. The objective of the program was to develop a template and toolkit to provide consistent criteria for additional intervention and a prioritized set of intervention options and guidelines to help supervisors and managers. The corporate process would define the requirements to ensure office safety and consistency in application.
This paper reports on the experience of implementing a worksite-based ergonomic program, the essential components of the program, and lessons learned for a more effective system-wide project approach.