Using an interactive website to disseminate participatory ergonomics research findings: an exploratory study
Morose, Tanya Elizabeth
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Introduction: Researchers traditionally present the results of their research in academic journals and through conference presentations. Typically, individuals working outside of academia do not have access to traditional journal indexes; the use of electronic archives has been shown to assist in disseminating research findings to potential users outside of the research community. Typically the results of participatory ergonomics research are published in peer reviewed articles or presented at conferences. Some health and safety associations have developed and published (in print or on their website) participatory ergonomics literature reviews and participatory ergonomics program implementation manuals with industry specific examples for their members. The Participative Ergonomics Blueprint and Ontario’s MSD Prevention Guideline are non-industry specific documents that can be used as resources for a participative ergonomics program. Currently, there is not an all-in-one resource for workplace parties containing all of the information to consider when determining if a participatory approach to ergonomics is appropriate for a specific workplace, or when implementing a participatory ergonomics program. Workplace parties would have to consult several sources (such as health and safety association publications, academic literature, books, magazines, corporate resources, safety groups, newsgroups, etc.) to gather and synthesize the information and resources required to develop and implement a participatory ergonomics program. The purpose of this thesis was to evaluate the responses to and effectiveness of an interactive website for knowledge dissemination to industry stakeholders. Methods: I developed an interactive wiki-style website with content based on my lay language synthesis of the participatory ergonomics literature. Relevant case-study examples, drawn from participatory ergonomics intervention studies, were used to illustrate concepts from the literature review. Website visitors were asked to complete a short questionnaire and were encouraged to contribute experiences, tools, links and comments on each web page in the “visitor contributed content” area. The purpose of the questionnaire was to learn more about website visitors and to gather feedback about the effectiveness of using an interactive website to disseminate participatory ergonomics research findings to industry stakeholders. Data were collected to allow computation of total duration of website visit, page order, total number of pages viewed, and the average time spent viewing each page. A qualitative analysis of all visitor contributed content and questionnaire responses was completed. The data were reviewed, grouped into themes and key messages were summarized. Ttests and chi-square analyses were completed to analyze the quantitative questionnaire responses. Results: During the data collection period (October 23, 2006 to May 31, 2007), there were 2214 website visits. With “short duration” and search engine indexing software visitors removed, 256 people came to the website, who browsed the content for more than one minute and viewed more than one page. During this time 54 questionnaires were submitted. All questionnaire respondents reported that the website content did not contradict their previous knowledge of participatory ergonomics. Several respondents stated they would need additional resources in order to determine if a participatory approach to ergonomics was right for their workplace or to implement a participatory ergonomics program. Suggested topics for a participatory ergonomics “tool box” included: timeline for program implementation, a timeline to demonstrate improvements in measurable outcomes of success, guidelines for ergonomics training, guidelines for assessment tools, methods and equipment, and an ergonomics policy/procedure template. Overall, with the exception of the expert’s rating of the visitor contributed content, the respondents found the case study examples and the visitor contributed content helpful. The source credibility of the literature review, visitor contributed and ergonomics content on the Internet were rated the same on all dimensions of credibility by questionnaire respondents. Eight unique website visitors made 13 contributions to the website. Website visitors were more likely to contribute to the website content if they visited the website for more than 10 minutes (chisquare 20.9038, df=1, prob <0.0001). The majority of contributions were added to the “successful and sustainable participatory ergonomics programs” and “participatory ergonomics” pages. Most of the comments were sharing “tips, tricks, and traps” from past experiences with participatory ergonomics (or similar) programs and sharing links to additional participatory ergonomics resources. The most common reason for not contributing to the website content was lack of time and not realizing that it was possible to contribute to the website. In addition to “not realizing that it is possible to contribute”, three people reported they were unable to figure out how to contribute to the website. This implies that prior to expanding this approach to knowledge transfer; there are user interface issues that should be addressed. Conclusions: The most significant limitation of this project was the small number of questionnaire respondents and the sparse visitor contributions to the website content which is likely due to not allowing a sufficiently long data collection period. Feedback from website visitors suggests that additional case study examples and a participatory ergonomics “toolbox” should be added to future iterations of the website. It was surprising that there were no statistically significant differences for the source credibility of the website content based on the literature review, the visitor contributed content and other health, safety and ergonomics information on the Internet. Most website visitors did not share their experiences due to a reported lack of time and user interface issues. To increase the number and frequency of visitor contributions, the user interface issues need to be resolved. An alternative method to engage website visitors (e.g. moderated commenting system) may be more successful than the wiki website created for this project. I believe that it is worthwhile to continue to invest time and resources to further develop this interactive participatory ergonomics resource. With additional time, continued recruitment and promotion efforts and changes to address user’s concerns (moderated commenting system, authority of contributions, addition of a ‘tool box’, etc.) there is the potential to fill an information niche that is currently missing online.