Applying epidemiological principles to ergonomics: A checklist for incorporating sound design and interpretation of studies
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The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a checklist of scientific requirements necessary for the design of sound ergonomics studies. Ergonomics researchers will be able to use the checklist when designing a study and preparing it for publication. Practitioners can use the checklist to critically appraise study results, thereby having greater confidence when applying ergonomic recommendations to the workplace. A secondary purpose of the paper is to pilot the checklist on a sample of papers in the ergonomics literature and to assess its reliability. While there are checklists to assess the epidemiological rigour of studies, none have been adapted to address methodological issues in ergonomics. Two epidemiologists independently searched five ergonomics journals (Applied Ergonomics, Ergonomics, Human Factors, International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction and Journal of Human Ergology) for research studies on VDT use and visual function published between 1990 and 1995. Twenty-one articles were reviewed. Each paper was scored according to the checklist. Overall, the reviewers found that the articles did not consistently fulfill some of the checklist criteria. An insufficient sample size was the most serious omission. Inter-rater reliability of the checklist was excellent for 11 of 14 items on the checklist (Kappa > 0.74), good for two items (Kappa between 0.40 and 0.74) and poor for one item. As ergonomics is gaining acceptance as an integral part of occupational health and safety, individuals in this field must be cognizant of the fact that study results are being applied directly to workplace procedures and design. It is incumbent upon ergonomists to base their work on a solid research foundation. The checklist can be used as a tool to improve study designs and so ultimately has implications for improving the fit between the worker and the work environment.
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