The effect of the mechanism of work behavioral automaticity on work-related musculoskeletal symptoms in the workplace

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The effect of the mechanism of work behavioral automaticity on work-related musculoskeletal symptoms in the workplace


Author: Xu, Yanwen
Title: The effect of the mechanism of work behavioral automaticity on work-related musculoskeletal symptoms in the workplace
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2015
Subject: Musculoskeletal system -- Diseases -- Prevention.
Occupational diseases -- Prevention.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Rehabilitation Sciences
Pages: xv, 248 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: Work behavioral automaticity (WBA) can be characterized as a learned and goal-directed behavioral response to the environment through frequency and reinforcement of movement. However, little research has been conducted into the mechanism underlying how WBA leads to the development of work-related musculoskeletal symptoms (WMS). This thesis reports on four studies, each of which examine different aspects of how WBA in the workplace relate to the development of WMS. Study 1 was a cross-sectional survey of the prevalence of, and risk factors for, WMS in the catering industry. The results showed that the most prevalent form of WMS was shoulder pain amongst Chinese chefs (71.7%). The frequency of movement (such as wrist bending and exertion) was the main risk factor contributing to the development of WMS. Based on the results of Study 1, Study 2 was an onsite ergonomic assessment of the risk factors contributing to WMS for Chinese chefs in a medium-sized restaurant. The results showed that standing for prolonged periods, poor manual handling postures, lifting heavy objects, and frequent and repetitive upper limb movements were the four main risk factors contributing to WMS. Moreover, such work behaviors were characterized by a high degree of automaticity; conducted without conscious awareness or intention, they had become habits. Drawing on the findings of Study 2, study 3 therefore used grounded theory to explore the formation of WBA and its underlying mechanisms. The results show that workplace behavior is heavily goal oriented. Initially, novel behaviors involved in work tasks are experienced as requiring cognitive effort, but as such effort increases and behavioral training is applied , automaticity increases and the behavior becomes easier. The more undesirable work habits one has, the higher the probability one will suffer from some form of WMS. Study 4 drew on the foregoing to develop a validated and reliable questionnaire to measure WBA in a group of Chinese chefs, followed by a case-control study to identify the characteristics of workers with or without WMS. A 51-item self-report WBA Scale (WBAS) emerged from this analysis. The WBAS demonstrated high test-retest reliability (0.630-0.929) and internal consistency (0.653-0.755). A four-factor structure for the instrument was identified through principal component analysis with varimax rotation. Criterion validity was established using C-WSF and WBAS (r=-0.57, p<0.01). The results of hierarchical logistic regression showed that environmental factors (OR=0.884), safety awareness (OR=1.417), and risk-taking beliefs (OR=1.261) predicted the development of WMS. All three predictors were subjected to further statistical testing and the results demonstrated that they play an important role in the formation of WBA in the workplace and hence contribute to the development of WMS.

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