Participatory Ergonomics for Return to Work

Dwayne Van Eerd, Donald C Cole, Ivan A Steenstra

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are problematic worldwide as a leading cause of time-loss injury claims and lost productivity in workplaces. Ergonomics is a science and practice to improve work environments. Participatory ergonomics involves people who can plan and control much of their own work activities, and have the necessary knowledge and power to make changes and influence outcomes. Participatory ergonomics interventions are carried out by a team or committee, typically made up of employees, managers, health and safety personnel, and ergonomists. Participatory ergonomics interventions can lead to improved workplace conditions through participation, communication, and group problem-solving, and can have a positive impact on workers’ exposures and health. Participatory ergonomics is a popular approach to reduce and improve workers’ return to work from injuries. Participatory ergonomics return to work interventions have been shown to be effective in various jurisdictions. Recent research on the process of participatory ergonomics has noted that proper support, adequate resources, and communication are key organizational facilitators necessary for effective participatory ergonomics programs. Additional facilitators such as access to the workplace, clearly defined responsibilities, prior approval for solutions, and adherence to timelines are also important for participatory ergonomics return to work success. Participatory ergonomics approaches can result in more tailored interventions, increased team communication, ongoing adaptations, and potentially targeted outcomes. Continued participatory ergonomics research and innovation can lead to better return to work interventions and ultimately less burden on workers and workplaces.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of return to work
Subtitle of host publicationFrom research to practice
EditorsIzabela Z. Schultz, Robert J. Gatchel
PublisherSpringer US Boston, MA
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4899-7627-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-4899-7817-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • return to work
  • participatory ergonomics


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