Background: Construction work frequently involves heavy physical work, and a reduction of the physical workload should have high priority. Technological development has made it possible to obtain field measurements with surface electromyography (sEMG), kinematics measured with inertial measurement units (IMUs), and video recordings. However, no studies have used these methods simultaneously to detect situations with excessive physical workload (events) during a working day. Thus, knowledge about these specific events may combat work-related risk factors. Participatory ergonomics (PE) has shown promising results, but whether it can be used as a tool to reduce the physical workload during construction work remains unknown.
Objective: This cluster randomized controlled trial investigated whether a PE intervention with technical measurements consisting of IMUs, sEMG, heart rate monitoring, and video recordings of physical workload could reduce the number of events with excessive physical workload during a working day. Furthermore, other outcomes were obtained from questionnaires.
Methods: A total of 80 male full-time construction workers (aged 19 to 67 years) were randomized at the cluster level (gang) to a PE intervention consisting of 3 workshops (7 gangs and 32 workers) or to a control group (8 gangs and 48 workers). The physical workload was recorded by technical measurements, that is, IMUs, sEMG, heart rate monitoring, and video recordings during a full working day at baseline and 3 and 6 months’ follow-up. On the basis of the technical measurements, a custom-made computer program detected the situations (events) where the construction workers were exposed to excessive physical workload and used in the intervention. Differences in the number of events from baseline to follow-up between intervention and control were evaluated using linear mixed models (intention-to-treat), with individual nested in cluster as a random factor. Furthermore, questionnaires were filled out on test days.
Results: The results of the primary outcome showed no change in the number of events with excessive physical workload. However, compared with the control group, the other outcomes showed decreased general fatigue after a typical working day (P=.001) and increased influence on own work (P=.04).
Conclusions: This PE intervention with technical measurements did not reduce the number of events with excessive physical workload during construction work. However, the intervention led to decreased general fatigue and increased influence on own work.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02498197; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02498197 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/74SZ3DIWS)