Dissertation: Ergonomists’ risk assessments: From guesstimates to strategic approaches

  • Date: –13:00
  • Doctoral student: Kristina Eliasson, Opponent: senior lecturer Cecilia Österman, Linnaeus University and Kalmar Maritime Academy
  • Contact person: Teresia Nyman
  • Disputation

Kristina Eliasson defends her thesis "Ergonomists’ risk assessments: From guesstimates to strategic approaches".

It is possible to view the dissertation through Zoom, https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/66886896810.


Musculoskeletal disorders are among the most prevalent causes of work-related ill-health, consequently risk assessments of hazardous factors related to these disorders are important for prevention. Occupational Health Services (OHS) providers are independent experts, supporting employers regarding work environment issues and rehabilitation. Ergonomists represents one of the professions within OHS, and risk assessment regarding musculoskeletal disorders is within the scope of their work tasks. 

The overall objective was to explore Swedish ergonomists’ practices and approaches with risk assessments, in order to contribute new knowledge about how ergonomists’ work methods can be further developed to improve prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. 

Paper I explored the process of risk assessment assignments and the ergonomists’ use of observation-based risk-assessment tools. The result showed a lack of systematic approaches regarding risk assessment assignments and limited use and knowledge of observation-based risk-assessment tools. In Paper II inter-observer and intra-observer reliability of risk assessments, without the use of an explicit observational method were assessed. The results showed a non-acceptable reliability. Paper III explored ergonomists experiences of an e-learning concept for knowledge translation in the OHS context. The e-learning concept was considered as feasible. The knowledge translation inspired increased use of risk-assessment tools, changes in the risk assessment procedures, e.g. selection of tools, and employing a participatory approach. Paper IV described the development of a process model for occupational health surveillance for workers exposed to hand-intensive work (HIW-model), and the studies that will explore the model. Paper V explored company representatives’ experiences of the HIW-model, and factors which facilitated the execution of the model. The model contributed to increased risk awareness and understanding of how individual workers’ musculoskeletal ill-health relates to exposures in work. Facilitating factors were: a joint start-up meeting in which the process was planned, clear communication, and clarity regarding the ownership of the process. 

In conclusion, the findings showed that ergonomists’ expertise is needed in the entire risk management process and not only in the risk assessment phase. In this process, the ergonomists need to be active and take the expert role (which includes a stocked toolbox) and support the employer through the whole risk management process from initiation to evaluation of risk controlling measures.