Proactive ergonomic behaviors intervention: Effects on promoting safe practices and reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders among water utility workers

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Interdepartmental Studies

First Committee Member

Gail H. Ironson - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Elsayed Abdel-Moty - Committee Member


This study pursued the application of a comprehensive safety intervention supported by behavioral principles to improve safety knowledge, safe worksite practices and consequently decrease the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) amongst water utility workers. A total of 30 mechanics from two water treatment plants participated in the study. A multiple-baseline, across two settings design was employed. Study phases included: Baseline, Intervention, Goal Setting+Feedback and Follow-up. Self-reported questionnaires gathered demographic information and documented participants' attitudes and perceptions about organizational safety climate and assessed psychosocial factors. An "Ergonomic Checklist" was designed by an Ergonomic Engineer and was used in this surly to assess participants' work safe practices and address ergonomic risk factors for WRMSD over a 24-week period. Using a 10 point scale (e.g. Posture 1=poor to 10=good) three observers assessed elements of the "Human-Machine-System" (HMS) incorporated in the worker (i.e. body posture and use of personal protective equipment), work tasks (i.e. force, repetition, contact stress and organization of work) and work environment (i.e. work space and environment). These activities were videotaped for analysis in all phases of the study.Findings showed that: (1) plant mechanics significantly increased their safety knowledge and awareness of work injury prevention strategies after the exposure to this comprehensive safety intervention compared to baseline; (2) this organization experienced an overall improvement in safety climate post safety intervention; (3) mechanics reported high levels of job satisfaction on each of the Job Descriptive Index (JDI) and Job in General (JIG) scales compared to the national norms; (4) psychosocial factors measured by JDI, JIG and SIG Scales showed statistical significant differences in mean scores for opportunities for promotion and stress in general pre and post safety intervention; and (5) plant mechanics improved their work safe practices and reduced exposure to ergonomic risk factors for WRMSD in the areas of force, task repetition, contact stress and organization of work, showing statistically significant differences in their percent scores pre and post safety intervention. The areas of body posture, use of protective equipment, work space and work environment showed no statistically significant differences in workers' percent scores pre and post safety intervention.


Health Sciences, Occupational Health and Safety; Health Sciences, Rehabilitation and Therapy; Psychology, Behavioral; Engineering, Industrial; Psychology, Industrial

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