The search for practical and reliable observational or technical risk assessment methods to be used in prevention of musculoskeletal disorders
Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) are still frequent, inducing very large costs for companies and societies all over the world. Ergonomists work to prevent these disorders and to make organisations sustainable. In their work it is important to identify risks in a reliable way, to prioritise risks, and then to perform interventions (participatory interventions have shown to more often be successful), so that the risks and the disorders may be reduced. Risks are most often assessed by observation. Two projects are described. In the first project the interobserver reliability of six observational methods was found to be low in risk assessments concerning repetition, movements and postures. Also the inter-method reliability was often low, i.e. when the same work is assessed with different methods different risk estimates are often obtained. In the second described project, easy-to-use methods for measurements of postures and movements were developed and validated. Hence, there are now validated technical methods that are easy to use. But, today’s inexpensive electronic devices should be utilized to a higher degree, in developing tools, together with practitioners, that are attractive, easy and time efficient to use, and which should increase the reliability in risk assessments of work tasks and jobs.