Despite considerable advances in the practice of office ergonomics, office workers are still suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These disorders, like carpal tunnel syndrome, can lead to high medical costs for employers and intense pain and discomfort for employees. The design of software office workers use could be a contributing factor to their risk of developing MSDs and a tool sensitive enough for evaluating ergonomic risks associated with the design of software is needed. Presented here are the results of a series of three studies focused on the development, improvement, and validation of a Self-report Ergonomic Assessment Tool (SEAT). The SEAT was found to comprise two important factors, stress and strain, and was found to be sufficiently consistent and sensitive to the exertions and postures related to office work. Data from two studies were used to validate stress components of the SEAT, e.g., postures, by using recorded videos and comparing participants' responses on the SEAT to those of trained raters. Results showed that participants were unable to reliably self-report stressors. Data from one study was used to validate the strain components of the SEAT by comparing participants' self-reported discomforts to muscle activity measured via surface electromyography and muscle oxygenation measured via near infrared spectroscopy. Participants' self-reported discomfort did correlate with these physiological measures, however, important exceptions revealed opportunities for future development and testing of the SEAT.
- Mehta, Ranjana Associate Professor