A new online office ergonomics training program is now available for use by organizations of all sizes in all sectors. Studies have shown that the program leads to healthy computing work habits among office workers. A joint initiative of the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and the Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA), eOfficeErgo: Ergonomics e-Learning for Office Workers was launched at the end of February, in time for International Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Awareness Day.
The program is designed so that participants can learn at their own pace and in their own environment. The program consists of nine modules and takes about 90 minutes to complete. By the end of the training, learners will be able to:
- discuss the hazards associated with computer work;
- explain the importance of varying their work posture;
- determine the key factors in maximizing their “comfort zone”;
- evaluate their office work environment; and
- apply ergonomics strategies to the arrangement of their work environment.
With the growth in office environments and the large number of people working mainly at their desks with computers, helping workplaces prevent musculoskeletal injuries among office workers is of increasing importance, says Monica Szabo, PSHSA’s executive director of government and public safety.
This program can help managers and workers understand the issues around these injuries and how to minimize risk.
Standard compliant and usability tested
The program began as an in-person training program, developed in the early 2000s by IWH in partnership with the U.S.-based Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. In 2010-2011, an international scientific panel of academic and practising ergonomists reviewed the content to ensure it complied with current scientific findings and international standards, including the Canadian Standards Association’s CSA-Z412-00 (R2011): Guideline on Office Ergonomics.
Experts in e-learning at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto then worked with IWH to turn the in-person training into an engaging online program. The program was tested for usability at the University of Waterloo and by employee focus groups at CAMH. This input was instrumental to improving the ease of navigating the training and the types of feedback trainees receive during the e-learning (e.g. frequency of quizzes).
One of the most memorable learning moments for the IWH team was at this stage, when the team was still getting used to designing for an online format. Going through the initial script and storyboards for the online program, the team didn’t want to leave anything out.
We were very vocal about making sure all the knowledge that might get passed on in a classroom would be available to workers sitting at their desk, learning this material on their own, says team member Trevor King, ergonomist and knowledge transfer and exchange associate at IWH.
But that resulted in information and text overload. King credits the e-learning expert at CAMH, who patiently steered him and his IWH colleagues toward the realization that they could convey quite a lot of information using dynamic features in the e-learning format.
Wrapping our heads around this took a while, says King.
But once we saw the first concept modules, we began to understand this more. We had to experience it to understand it.
In the end, not much appeared to be lost in translation. In a study conducted at five workplaces, involving 400 office workers, the e-learning version was found to deliver similar benefits as an in-person training program. Both types of learning were also tested against a control group who did not receive training. Those who were trained had better scores on ergonomics knowledge, confidence in their ability to assess and adjust their workstation (self-efficacy), postural risk, and workstation configurations and adjustments. The study also found that improved outcomes were sustained even longer when either the in-person or online training was followed up with group sessions in which learners discussed the lessons and conducted assessments on each other.
Though new to workplaces, eOfficeErgo (or an early version of it) is already being offered to all employees at CAMH, where a pilot study also resulted in positive findings. The program is now one of the first resources given to staff who encounter issues with their workstations. The e-learning has not only been well-received by staff, it has also resulted in real benefits for the organization, according to Cheryl Peever, formerly of CAMH’s health and safety team. Thanks to this tool, more employees have been able to solve their issues by using the resource modules, and this has reduced the number of full ergonomics assessments needed, Peever said.
Three formats available
The online program is available in three formats: a free web-based version, a free SCORM-compliant version that organizations can incorporate into their Learning Management System, and a SCORM-compliant version that, for a nominal fee, allows managers to track information such as who has completed the training and when.
To access any one of these three versions, go to: www.iwh.on.ca/eOfficeErgo.
To watch a video preview of the course, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEf8JLVNVnM.
To view a presentation about the study comparing e-learning, in-person learning and enhanced forms of either format, go to: www.iwh.on.ca/how-to-make-office-ergonomics-training-more-effective-findings-from-a-field-trial.