High Ergonomic Risk of Computer Work Postures Among Iranian Hospital Staff: Evidence From a Cross-Sectional Study

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Occupational Health Department, Health Faculty, Qom University of Medical Sciences, Qom, Iran

2 Department of Ergonomics, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Background and objectives: Non-ergonomic computer work has emerged as a significant cause of musculoskeletal disorders among employees of health care organizations.  Given the negative impact of such disorders on quality of work life, safety, and performance of hospital staff, there is a need to evaluate the exposure of this staff to the ergonomic risks associated with the computer-based jobs.
Methods: A sample of 150 computer user employees from two hospitals in Qom (Central Iran) was surveyed. Musculoskeletal disorder data was collected by standardized Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ). The postural states of the participants were assessed using Novel Ergonomic Postural Assessment Method (NERPA) and Rapid Office Strain Assessment (ROSA). Data were summarized by descriptive statistical methods. The correlation between categorical variables was examined by Chi-square test.
Findings: Among the total sample, 76.7% had administrative tasks, 20% were nurse and the rest were secretary of wards. Almost all participants (94%) reported work-related pain at least in one of their body limbs in the past year. Pain in neck was the most frequent (70%) musculoskeletal symptom, followed by pain in lower (62%) and upper back (55.3%), respectively. While most postures as assessed by NERPA were at medium level of ergonomic risk (left-hand, 74.7% and right hand, 69.3%), significant fraction of postures were highly risky (left-hand, 24% and right hand, 29.3%). Also ROSA recorded undesirable ergonomic score for 87.3% of the participants. Postures related to seat showed the higher frequency of undesirable scores (86.7%), followed postures associated with the use of peripherals (44%) and mouse/keyboard (26.7%), respectively. The highest frequency of inappropriate ergonomic postures as identified by both methods was observed among administrative staff. Statistical test found significant correlation between risky ergonomic postures and musculoskeletal problems (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Our study revealed the significant ergonomic risk associated with postural states of hospital employees working in computer workstations. Our results highlight the need for further large-scale studies to identify the extent of this occupational hazard throughout the country. Given the negative impact of musculoskeletal disorders on performance of hospital personnel and thereby patient safety, possible confirmation of widespread computer-related non-ergonomic postures will require urgent intervention.