Participatory ergonomics as a return-to-work intervention: A future challenge?

JR Anema, IA Steenstra, IJM Urlings, PM Bongers, EMM De Vroome, W Van Mechelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Participatory ergonomics (PE) are often applied for prevention of low back pain (LBP). In this pilot-study, a PE-program is applied to the disability management of workers sick listed due to LBP.

Methods: The process, implementation, satisfaction, and barriers for implementation concerning the PE-program were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively for 35 workers sick listed 2-6 weeks due to LBP and their ergonomists.

Results: Two-hundred-and-seventy ergonomic solutions were proposed to the employer. They were targeted more at work design and organization of work (58.9%) than at workplace and equipment design (38.9%). They were planned mostly on a short-term basis (74.8%). Almost half (48.9%) of the solutions for work adjustment were completely or partially implemented within 3 months after the first day of absenteeism. Most workers were satisfied about the PE-program (median score 7.8 on a 10-point scale) and reported a stimulating effect on return-to-work (66.7%). Main obstacles to implementation were technical or organizational difficulties (50.0%) and physical disabilities of the worker (44.8%).

Conclusions: This study suggests that compliance, acceptance, and satisfaction related to the PE-program were good for all participants. Almost half of the proposed solutions were implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-281
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • participatory ergonomics
  • return to work
  • intervention


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