Journal of Ergonomics

Journal of Ergonomics
Open Access

ISSN: 2165-7556


Low-Cost Improvements for Reducing Multifaceted Work-Related Risks and Preventing Stress at Work

Kazutaka Kogi, Toru Yoshikawa, Tsuyoshi Kawakami, Myung Sook Lee and Etsuko Yoshikawa

Types of low-cost improvements that can help reduce work-related risks and prevent stress at work are reviewed by examining simple improvements achieved by participatory action-oriented programs in different work settings. Programs reviewed include WISE (work improvement in small enterprises) projects in various industries, including POSITIVE (participation-oriented safety improvements by trade union initiative) activities by trade unions, and recent mental health interventions for work stress prevention. Participatory steps undertaken commonly comprise learning local good practices, group work on feasible improvement options and consensus building on immediate actions. These common steps are found effective for achieving multifaceted improvements at low cost in short periods. Typical low-cost improvements by work improvement programs cover materials handling, workstations, physical environment and work organization, whereas those by stress prevention programs additionally cover internal communication, restful schedules and social support measures. The planning and implementation of these improvements are usually facilitated by the use of action-oriented toolkits including good examples, action checklists listing practical low-cost improvements and group work sheets. Serial intervention studies confirm reductions in workplace risks, often with productivity increase, in both work improvement and stress prevention activities. Main contributing factors leading to these positive achievements are (a) simple procedures aimed at good practices in multifaceted risk management, (b) a clear focus on locally feasible improvements that have real impact on risk reduction, and (c) the use of locally adjusted action-oriented toolkits. These results demonstrate the importance of promoting participatory programs relying on multifaceted low-cost improvements in reducing the work-related risks and stress in varied work situations.�