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1.  Strategies to reduce safety violations for working from heights in construction companies: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:541.
Safety measures should be applied to reduce work-related fatal and non-fatal fall injuries. However, according to the labor inspectorate, more than 80% of Dutch construction sites violate safety regulations for working from heights. To increase compliance with safety regulations, employers and workers have to select, implement and monitor safety measures. To facilitate this behavioral change, stimulating knowledge awareness and personalized feedback are frequently advocated behavior change techniques. For this study, two behavior change strategies have been developed in addition to the announcement of safety inspections by the labor inspectorate. These strategies consist of 1) face-to-face contacts with safety consultants and 2) direct mail with access to internet facilities. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of these two strategies on the safety violations for working from heights, the process and the cost measures.
This study is a block randomized intervention trial in 27 cities to establish the effects of the face-to-face guidance strategy (N = 9), a direct mailing strategy (N = 9) and a control condition of no guidance (N = 9) on safety violations to record by labor inspectors after three months. A process evaluation for both strategies will be performed to determine program implementation (reach, dose delivered and dose received), satisfaction, knowledge and perceived safety behavior. A cost analysis will be performed to establish the financial costs for both strategies. The present study is in accordance with the CONSORT statement.
This study increases insight into performing practice-based randomized controlled trials. The outcome will help to evaluate the effect of two guidance strategies on safety violations. If these strategies are effective, implementation of these strategies through the national institute of safety and health or labor inspectorate can take place to guide construction companies in complying with safety regulations.
Trial registration
NTR 4298 on 29-nov-2013.
PMCID: PMC4048537  PMID: 24886440
Safety hazards; Working from heights; Safety behavior; Construction industry
2.  Guidance strategies for a participatory ergonomic intervention to increase the use of ergonomic measures of workers in construction companies: a study design of a randomised trial 
More than seven out of 10 Dutch construction workers describe their work as physically demanding. Ergonomic measures can be used to reduce these physically demanding work tasks. To increase the use of ergonomic measures, employers and workers have to get used to other working methods and to maintaining them. To facilitate this behavioural change, participatory ergonomics (PE) interventions could be useful. For this study a protocol of a PE intervention is adapted in such a way that the intervention can be performed by an ergonomics consultant through face-to-face contacts or email contacts. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the face-to-face guidance strategy and the e-guidance strategy on the primary outcome measure: use of ergonomic measures by individual construction workers, and on the secondary outcome measures: the work ability, physical functioning and limitations due to physical problems of individual workers.
The present study is a randomised intervention trial of six months in 12 companies to establish the effects of a PE intervention guided by four face-to-face contacts (N = 6) or guided by 13 email contacts (N = 6) on the primary and secondary outcome measures at baseline and after six months. Construction companies are randomly assigned to one of the guidance strategies with the help of a computer generated randomisation table. In addition, a process evaluation for both strategies will be performed to determine reach, dose delivered, dose received, precision, competence, satisfaction and behavioural change to find possible barriers and facilitators for both strategies. A cost-benefit analysis will be performed to establish the financial consequences of both strategies. The present study is in accordance with the CONSORT statement.
The outcome of this study will help to 1) evaluate the effect of both guidance strategies, and 2) find barriers to and facilitators of both guidance strategies. When these strategies are effective, implementation within occupational health services can take place to guide construction companies (and others) with the implementation of ergonomic measures.
Trail registration
Trailnumber: ISRCTN73075751, Date of registration: 30 July 2013.
PMCID: PMC3997435  PMID: 24742300
Participatory ergonomics; Ergonomic measures; Physical work demands; Construction industry
3.  Improving occupational health care for construction workers: a process evaluation 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:218.
To evaluate the process of a job-specific workers’ health surveillance (WHS) in improving occupational health care for construction workers.
From January to July 2012 were 899 bricklayers and supervisors invited for the job-specific WHS at three locations of one occupational health service throughout the Netherlands. The intervention aimed at detecting signs of work-related health problems, reduced work capacity and/or reduced work functioning. Measurements were obtained using a recruitment record and questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. The process evaluation included the following: reach (attendance rate), intervention dose delivered (provision of written recommendations and follow-up appointments), intervention dose received (intention to follow-up on advice directly after WHS and remembrance of advice three months later), and fidelity (protocol adherence). The workers scored their increase in knowledge from 0–10 with regard to health status and work ability, their satisfaction with the intervention and the perceived (future) effect of such an intervention. Program implementation was defined as the mean score of reach, fidelity, and intervention dose delivered and received.
Reach was 9% (77 workers participated), fidelity was 67%, the intervention dose delivered was 92 and 63%, and the intervention dose received was 68 and 49%. The total programme implementation was 58%. The increases in knowledge regarding the health status and work ability of the workers after the WHS were graded as 7.0 and 5.9, respectively. The satisfaction of the workers with the entire intervention was graded as 7.5. The perceived (future) effects on health status were graded as 6.3, and the effects on work ability were graded with a 5.2. The economic recession affected the workers as well as the occupational health service that enacted the implementation.
Programme implementation was acceptable. Low reach, limited protocol adherence and modest engagement of the workers with respect to the intervention were the most prominent aspects that influenced the intervention process. The increase in the workers’ knowledge about their health status and work ability was substantial, and the workers’ satisfaction with the intervention was good. The perceived effect of the advised preventive actions on health status was sufficient.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register: http://NTR3012
PMCID: PMC3599882  PMID: 23497119
4.  Musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers: a one-year follow-up study 
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are an important cause of functional impairments and disability among construction workers. An improved understanding of MSDs in different construction occupations is likely to be of value for selecting preventive measures. This study aimed to survey the prevalence of symptoms of MSDs, the work-relatedness of the symptoms and the problems experienced during work among two construction occupations: bricklayers and supervisors.
We randomly selected 750 bricklayers and 750 supervisors resident in the Netherlands in December 2009. This sample was surveyed by means of a baseline questionnaire and a follow-up questionnaire one year later. The participants were asked about complaints of the musculoskeletal system during the last six months, the perceived work-relatedness of the symptoms, the problems that occurred during work and the occupational tasks that were perceived as causes or aggravating factors of the MSD.
Baseline response rate was 37%, follow-up response was 80%. The prevalence of MSDs among 267 bricklayers and 232 supervisors was 67% and 57%, respectively. Complaints of the back, knee and shoulder/upper arm were the most prevalent among both occupations. Irrespective of the body region, most of the bricklayers and supervisors reported that their complaints were work-related. Complaints of the back and elbow were the most often reported among the bricklayers during work, whereas lower arm/wrist and upper leg complaints were the most often reported among the supervisors. In both occupations, a majority of the participants perceived several occupational physical tasks and activities as causes or aggravating factors for their MSD. Recurrent complaints at follow-up were reported by both bricklayers (47% of the complaints) and supervisors (31% of the complaints). Participants in both occupations report that mainly back and knee complaints result in additional problems during work, at the time of follow-up.
A substantial number of the bricklayers and the supervisors report musculoskeletal disorders, mainly back, knee and shoulder/upper arm complaints. The majority of the bricklayers and half of the supervisors believe that their complaints are work-related. Irrespective of occupation, participants with MSDs report substantial problems during work. Workplace intervention measures aimed at occupational physical tasks and activities seem justified for both occupations.
PMCID: PMC3489781  PMID: 23061990
Construction industry; Longitudinal study; Work-related musculoskeletal disorders
5.  Development and qualitative evaluation of an adapted return to work guideline for the sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:535.
Among the working population, unemployed and temporary agency workers with psychological problems are a particularly vulnerable group, at risk for sickness absence and prolonged work disability. There is a need for the development of a new protocol for this group, because the existing return to work (RTW) interventions, including practice guidelines, do not address the situation when there is no workplace to return to. The purpose of this study was to (1) describe the adaptations needed in the practice guideline for employed workers to enable its use by insurance physicians (IPs) for counselling of sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems; and (2) evaluate the experiences of IPs when using the new guidance document for minor psychological problems (MPP guidance document).
The MPP guidance document for unemployed and temporary agency workers was developed through discussions with nine IPs and with the help of an expert. Semi-structured interviews with five IPs were then held to evaluate the IPs’ field experience using the MPP guidance document, in terms of (a) feasibility and (b) perceived usefulness of the MPP guidance document.
The main adaptation introduced in the guideline is that interaction with the workplace, which is absent in this population, needed to be established in an alternative way, i.e., through the involvement of vocational rehabilitation agencies and labour experts. Overall, the guideline required minimal changes. In total, nineteen sick-listed workers were counselled using the MPP guidance document. The overall experience of the IPs was that the MPP guidance document was feasible and useful for the IP, while they had mixed responses on its usefulness for the sick-listed worker, in part due to the follow-up period of this study.
An existing practice guideline for employed workers was adapted for use as a guidance document for unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems. IPs were positive about applying the MPP guidance document. The guidance document provides opportunities for RTW counselling for unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems.
PMCID: PMC3519800  PMID: 23014258
Unemployment; Participation; Return-to-work; Vocational rehabilitation; Counselling; Guideline; Minor psychological problems
6.  The prevalence of common mental disorders among hospital physicians and their association with self-reported work ability: a cross-sectional study 
We studied the prevalence of common mental disorders among Dutch hospital physicians and investigated whether the presence of a mental disorder was associated with insufficient self-reported work ability.
A questionnaire was sent to all (n = 958) hospital physicians of one academic medical center, using validated scales to assess burnout, work-related fatigue, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Furthermore, respondents were asked to rate their current work ability against the work ability in their own best period (adapted version of the first WAI item). The prevalence of each common mental disorder was calculated. In addition, odds ratios of reporting insufficient work ability for subjects with high complaint scores compared to physicians with low complaint scores were calculated for each mental disorder.
The response rate was 51%, and 423 questionnaires were eligible for analysis. The mental disorder prevalence rates were as follows: work-related fatigue 42%, depression 29%, anxiety 24%, posttraumatic stress complaints 15%, stress complaints 15% and burnout 6%. The mean score for self-reported work ability was 8.1 (range 0–10), and 4% of respondents rated their own work ability as insufficient. Physicians with high mental health complaints were 3.5- for fatigue, 5.6- for PTSD, 7.1- for anxiety, 9.5- for burnout, 10.8- for depression and 13.6-fold for stress more likely to report their work ability as insufficient.
The prevalence of common mental disorders among hospital physicians varied from 6% for burnout to 42% for work-related fatigue. Those physicians with high complaints had significantly 4- to 14 times increased odds of reporting their own work ability as insufficient. This work suggests that to ensure future workers health and patients safety occupational health services should plan appropriate intervention strategies.
PMCID: PMC3459739  PMID: 22938170
7.  Return to Work after an Acute Coronary Syndrome: Patients' Perspective 
Safety and Health at Work  2012;3(2):117-122.
To describe the time perspective of return to work and the factors that facilitate and hinder return to work in a group of survivors of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
Retrospective semi-structured telephone survey 2 to 3 years after hospitalization with 84 employed Dutch ACS-patients from one academic medical hospital.
Fifty-eight percent of patients returned to work within 3 months, whereas at least 88% returned to work once within 2 years. Two years after hospitalization, 12% of ACS patients had not returned to work at all, and 24% were working, but not at pre-ACS levels. For all ACS-patients, the most mentioned categories of facilitating factors to return to work were having no complaints and not having signs or symptoms of heart disease. Physical incapacity, co-morbidity, and mental incapacity were the top 3 categories of hindering factors against returning to work.
Within 2 years, 36% of the patients had not returned to work at their pre-ACS levels. Disease factors, functional capacity, environmental factors, and personal factors were listed as affecting subjects' work ability level.
PMCID: PMC3440460  PMID: 22993716
Acute coronary syndrome; Return to work; Facilitating; Hindering factors
8.  Facilitators and Barriers in the Use of a Checklist by Insurance Physicians during Work Ability Assessments in Depressive Disorder 
Safety and Health at Work  2011;2(4):328-335.
Depressive disorder (DD) is a complex disease, and the assessment of work ability in patients with DD is also complicated. The checklist depression (CDp) has recently been developed to support such work ability assessments and has been recommended for implementation in insurance medicine, starting with an analysis of the organisational and social contexts. The aim of this study was to identify the potential facilitators and barriers in the use of the CDp by insurance physicians (IPs) during work ability assessments of employees on sick leave due to DD.
A qualitative research was conducted based on semi-structured interviews. The participants were IPs with at least one year of work experience in performing work ability assessments. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed qualitatively.
Ten IPs (7 males, 3 females; mean 53 years) were interviewed. Important facilitators, which emerged for use of the CDp, were an oral introduction for colleagues and staff, support from management, valuing the increased transparency in work ability assessments with using the CDp, having adequate time for assessments as well as modification of the appearance (colour, plasticised form) and content (clarifying aspects of the examples) of the assessment tool. The fear of the loss of autonomy, lack of added value of the CDp, high workload, inadequate instructions and lack of time were mentioned as barriers.
Adequate introduction to the use of CDp and the fear of the loss of autonomy of IPs need special attention in planning its implementation.
PMCID: PMC3430918  PMID: 22953217
Checklist; Occupational medicine; Major depressive disorder; Work ability
9.  A trial of a job-specific workers' health surveillance program for construction workers: study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:743.
Dutch construction workers are offered periodic health examinations. This care can be improved by tailoring this workers health surveillance (WHS) to the demands of the job and adjust the preventive actions to the specific health risks of a worker in a particular job. To improve the quality of the WHS for construction workers and stimulate relevant job-specific preventive actions by the occupational physician, we have developed a job-specific WHS. The job-specific WHS consists of modules assessing both physical and psychological requirements. The selected measurement instruments chosen, are based on their appropriateness to measure the workers' capacity and health requirements. They include a questionnaire and biometrical tests, and physical performance tests that measure physical functional capabilities. Furthermore, our job-specific WHS provides occupational physicians with a protocol to increase the worker-behavioural effectiveness of their counselling and to stimulate job-specific preventive actions. The objective of this paper is to describe and clarify our study to evaluate the behavioural effects of this job-specific WHS on workers and occupational physicians.
The ongoing study of bricklayers and supervisors is a nonrandomised trial to compare the outcome of an intervention (job-specific WHS) group (n = 206) with that of a control (WHS) group (n = 206). The study includes a three-month follow-up. The primary outcome measure is the proportion of participants who have undertaken one or more of the preventive actions advised by their occupational physician in the three months after attending the WHS. A process evaluation will be carried out to determine context, reach, dose delivered, dose received, fidelity, and satisfaction. The present study is in accordance with the TREND Statement.
This study will allow an evaluation of the behaviour of both the workers and occupational physician regarding the preventive actions undertaken by them within the scope of a job-specific WHS.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3192691  PMID: 21958019
10.  Feasibility and Acceptability of Workers' Health Surveillance for Fire Fighters 
Safety and Health at Work  2011;2(3):218-228.
The objective of this study was to test the feasibility and acceptability of a new workers' health surveillance (WHS) for fire fighters in a Dutch pilot-implementation project.
In three fire departments, between November 2007 and February 2009, feasibility was tested with respect to i) worker intent to change health and behavior; ii) the quality of instructions for testing teams; iii) the planned procedure in the field; and iv) future WHS organisation. Acceptability involved i) satisfaction with WHS and ii) verification of the job-specificity of the content of two physical tests of WHS. Fire fighters were surveyed after completing WHS, three testing teams were interviewed, and the content of the two tests was studied by experts.
Feasibility: nearly all of the 275 fire fighters intended to improve their health when recommended by the occupational physician. The testing teams found the instructions to be clear, and they were mostly positive about the organisation of WHS. Acceptability: the fire fighters rated WHS at eight points (out of a maximum of ten). The experts also reached a consensus about the optimal job-specific content of the future functional physical tests.
Overall, it is feasible and acceptable to implement WHS in a definitive form in the Dutch fire-fighting sector.
PMCID: PMC3430907  PMID: 22953205
Feasibility studies; Occupational health
11.  Enhancing return-to-work in cancer patients, development of an intervention and design of a randomised controlled trial 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:345.
Compared to healthy controls, cancer patients have a higher risk of unemployment, which has negative social and economic impacts on the patients and on society at large. Therefore, return-to-work of cancer patients needs to be improved by way of an intervention. The objective is to describe the development and content of a work-directed intervention to enhance return-to-work in cancer patients and to explain the study design used for evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention.
Development and content of the intervention
The work-directed intervention has been developed based on a systematic literature review of work-directed interventions for cancer patients, factors reported by cancer survivors as helping or hindering their return-to-work, focus group and interview data for cancer patients, health care professionals, and supervisors, and vocational rehabilitation literature. The work-directed intervention consists of: 1) 4 meetings with a nurse at the treating hospital department to start early vocational rehabilitation, 2) 1 meeting with the participant, occupational physician, and supervisor to make a return-to-work plan, and 3) letters from the treating physician to the occupational physician to enhance communication.
Study design to evaluate the intervention
The treating physician or nurse recruits patients before the start of initial treatment. Patients are eligible when they have a primary diagnosis of cancer, will be treated with curative intent, are employed at the time of diagnosis, are on sick leave, and are between 18 and 60 years old. After the patients have given informed consent and have filled out a baseline questionnaire, they are randomised to either the control group or to the intervention group and receive either care as usual or the work-directed intervention, respectively. Primary outcomes are return-to-work and quality of life. The feasibility of the intervention and direct and indirect costs will be determined. Outcomes will be assessed by a questionnaire at baseline and at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after baseline.
This study will provide information about the effectiveness of a work-directed intervention for cancer patients. The intention is to implement the intervention in normal care if it has been shown effective.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC2907345  PMID: 20594347
12.  Clinimetric quality of the fire fighting simulation test as part of the Dutch fire fighters Workers' Health Surveillance 
Clinimetric data for the fire fighting simulation test (FFST), a new test proposed for the Workers' Health Surveillance (WHS) of Dutch fire fighters, were evaluated.
Twenty-one fire fighters took the FFST three times with one and three weeks between testing. Clinimetric quality was determined by means of reliability, agreement and validity. For reliability and agreement, the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), and standard error of measurement (SEM), were analysed. For construct validity, the tests from 45 fire fighters were correlated with their own and their supervisors' rated work ability.
The ICCs were 0.56 and 0.79 at the one-week and three-week test-retest periods, respectively. Testing times ranged from 9 to 17 minutes; the SEMs were 70 s at the one-week and 40 s at the three-week test-retest periods. The construct validity was moderate (-0.47 ≤ r ≤ -0.33; p < 0.05).
The FFST was reliable with acceptable agreement after three weeks. Construct validity was moderate. We recommend using FFST as a part of the WHS for Dutch fire fighters. It is advised that fire fighters should perform the FFST once as a trial before judging their performance in testing time during the second performance.
PMCID: PMC2829551  PMID: 20132538
13.  Risk factors for developing jumper's knee in sport and occupation: a review 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:127.
The onset of jumper's knee is generally associated with sports and sporting activities. Employees in certain professions might be at risk as well for developing jumper's knee. Therefore, it is of interest to identify risk factors in sport and/or occupation.
A systematic search of the international scientific literature was performed until November 2008 in the scientific databases (a) Medline, (b) Embase, and (c) SportDiscus. All types of studies were included. The search strategy retrieved ten articles about risk factors in sport that met the inclusion criteria. Risk factors that could be identified are; playing volleyball (4 studies), playing basketball (3 studies), training and playing volleyball/basketball more than 12 hours per week (2 studies), in combination with weight-bearing activities of at least 5 hours per week (1 study) and playing or training on a hard surface (1 study). No studies were found regarding occupation that fulfilled the inclusion criteria.
Playing volleyball and basketball has a positive association with the onset or worsening of jumper's knee. Other risk factors are training and playing hours of at least 12 hours per week and/or in combination with weight training of at least 5 hours per week, and/or with playing or training on a hard surface. We did not find a specific occupational risk factor.
PMCID: PMC2715413  PMID: 19586529
14.  The development of an intervention programme to reduce whole-body vibration exposure at work induced by a change in behaviour: a study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:329.
Whole body vibration (WBV) exposure at work is common and studies found evidence that this exposure might cause low back pain (LBP). A recent review concluded there is a lack of evidence of effective strategies to reduce WBV exposure. Most research in this field is focussed on the technical implications, although changing behaviour towards WBV exposure might be promising as well. Therefore, we developed an intervention programme to reduce WBV exposure in a population of drivers with the emphasis on a change in behaviour of driver and employer. The hypothesis is that an effective reduction in WBV exposure, in time, will lead to a reduction in LBP as WBV exposure is a proxy for an increased risk of LBP.
The intervention programme was developed specifically for the drivers of vibrating vehicles and their employers. The intervention programme will be based on the most important determinants of WBV exposure as track conditions, driving speed, quality of the seat, etc. By increasing knowledge and skills towards changing these determinants, the attitude, social influence and self-efficacy (ASE) of both drivers and employers will be affected having an effect on the level of exposure. We used the well-known ASE model to develop an intervention programme aiming at a change or the intention to change behaviour towards WBV exposure. The developed programme consists of: individual health surveillance, an information brochure, an informative presentation and a report of the performed field measurements.
The study protocol described is advantageous as the intervention program actively tries to change behaviour towards WBV exposure. The near future will show if this intervention program is effective by showing a decrease in WBV exposure.
PMCID: PMC2211310  PMID: 18005400

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