Do you use Discomfort Surveys? I certainly do! They are awesome! Best case scenario, these are administered before an ergonomics assessment. Pre-assessment discomfort surveys are a popular method to gather information. They are a fantastic way for the assessor to familiarize themselves with the employee’s working environment prior to the actual assessment. Because pre-assessment surveys identify user discomfort, they often guide the assessor on what may be causing the discomfort.
Discomfort surveys generally have the following content. Consider these as suggestions of things you may want to include:
- Descriptive information about the employee including their main workday tasks. Typical information can include:
- Identifiers such as name, position, contact information, union (if available)
- Typical work hours per day
- Total break time per day
- Typical work duties
- Whether a laptop is used for primary work tasks
- Input method percentage: mouse vs. letter keys vs number keys
- Whether corrective lenses are needed for computer work
- Typical amount of time sitting before standing (or vice versa for a standing workstation)
- An anatomical drawing that allows the employee to identify discomfort (severity/frequency of pain) by rating their level of discomfort for each body region with a likert-type point scale.
- “During the last work week, how often did you experience discomfort?” The worker would select one of the following options: never, 1-2, 3-4, once every day, several times per day
- “If you experience discomfort, how uncomfortable is it?” The worker would select one of the following options: slightly, moderately, very uncomfortable
- “If you experience discomfort, does it interfere with your ability to work?” The worker would select one of the following options: never, slightly, substantially
- Anatomical drawings may include the following body parts: head (headaches), eyes (eyestrain), neck, shoulders (left and right), elbows (left and right), wrists/hands (left and right), upper back, lower back, hips/thighs (left and right), and knees/feet (left and right).
- It can include questions such as:
- A list of areas of concern or discomfort can also be used instead of or in addition to the anatomical drawing. The employee would simply rank body-part pain and tasks that are their biggest concern or cause the most discomfort (respectively).
- Ideas for job improvements can also be solicited in the discomfort survey. Usually the employee can offer some valuable practical insights to improve their comfort level.
- Information about pro-ergonomics behaviour such as knowledge of adjustments, break-taking behaviours, stretching, etc can be asked. This is valuable because it can strategize how to manage the ergonomics in large groups/departments.
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How to Distribute Discomfort Surveys
Generally, there are two ways to distribute discomfort surveys amongst staff:
- The staff self-selects that they need an ergonomic assessment and then completes the survey. The survey can be located electronically or in a central location, such as Human Resources.
- An entire area/department is given the survey to determine priority of need. Based on the outcome, the assessor may choose to assess only a few staff, or the entire department. Priority determination would include the worker’s severity/frequency of discomfort. Also, if it is noted that the group has very low knowledge of ergonomic adjustments or practices, it may be valuable to do an education session as a preventative measure.