Building a Stronger Team: How Participatory Capacity-Building Training Can Help

Have you ever thought about ways to improve your health and safety training, specifically for musculoskeletal injury prevention? In this article, we explore the concept of participatory ‘capacity building’ training and how it can be used to not only identify and control musculoskeletal injuries but how it can empower workers to make improvements for a variety of workplace issues. We’ll delve into the Occupational Health Centre’s participatory approach to capacity-building training, the benefits it offers, and how it can be implemented effectively. Whether you’re a health and safety committee member, a worker, or have an interest in health and safety and are looking to enhance your skills, this article will provide valuable insights into the power of participatory capacity-building training.

Occupational Health Centre is celebrating 40 years of working with workplaces, workers, and health and safety committee members to empower and improve their workplace’s health and safety initiatives. OHC’s ergonomist, occupational health nurses, and health educators have valuable experience in training and educating with various strategies and methods. For musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs), training with the goal of empowering participants through a participatory capacity-building approach has been successful.

Ergonomics, MSIs, and taking actions to improve health and safety is best accomplished through a participatory capacity-building approach. MSI injuries are caused by repetitive strain, awkward postures, forceful exertions, and other physical factors related to work tasks or the environment. MSI training typically involves educating workers and health and safety committee members on ergonomics, safe work practices, and injury prevention techniques. This can include changes to equipment, developing safe work practices including proper body position training, developing work schedule changes to balance the workload such as job rotation, and providing personal protective equipment such as anti-vibration gloves to reduce the risk of injury. By providing MSI training via a method that builds the capacity to identify, communicate, and solve issues, the incidence of workplace injuries, improvements in employee well-being, as well as improvements in quality and productivity can be achieved.

Participatory Capacity-Building training is a collaborative approach to learning that involves active involvement from all participants. Unlike traditional training methods where the trainer is the sole source of knowledge and information, participatory training empowers learners to take an active role in their own learning process. In participatory training, learners are encouraged to share their own experiences, knowledge, and perspectives with the group. This helps to create a more dynamic learning environment that is tailored to the unique needs of the participants. By engaging in group discussions and activities, learners can gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and learn new skills through hands-on practice. One of the key benefits of participatory training is that it promotes a sense of ownership and accountability among learners. By taking an active role in the learning process, participants become more invested in the outcomes of the training and are more likely to apply what they have learned in their work or personal lives.

OHC uses several methods to facilitate Participatory Capacity-Building. Hazard mapping and a modified Fishbone diagram are two successful methods when used for MSI issues.

Hazard mapping is a participatory approach to identifying and assessing workplace hazards. It involves participants working together to create a visual representation of the workplace and the hazards that exist within it. The process typically involves a walk-through of the workplace, during which participants identify potential hazards and mark them on a map or diagram of the workplace. This can include hazards such as tripping hazards, machinery hazards, chemical hazards, and ergonomic hazards. Specifically for ergonomics, hazard groups include forceful exertions, awkward and sustained postures, repetitive motions and durations, psychosocial hazards such as stress and time pressure, and other hazards which include direct pressure, glare, vibration, and other hazard unique to the workplace. The benefits of hazard mapping include increased awareness of workplace hazards, improved communication between workers and management, and the development of targeted strategies to address specific hazards. By involving workers in the hazard mapping process, the health and safety committee can gain a better understanding of the hazards that workers face on a daily basis and can work with them to develop effective solutions. Through this collaborative approach, workplace safety can be improved and the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses can be reduced.

In one recent example, this type of participatory training led a member of the health and safety committee to become newly aware of a hazard in another department previously unrealized after 20 years of experience in the company. In another situation, all parties (including health care professionals and the WCB) believed the worker’s nerve injury in the hands was the result of repetitive pinch gripping of a tool. After hazard mapping and some basic ergonomic principles, it was discovered the root cause of the nerve problems was actually the result ofa direct pressure hazard of resting the wrists on a hard edge (the workbench). Once corrected with height adjustments, awareness training and padding, the pain went away.

A fishbone diagram is a visual tool that is used to identify the possible causes of a problem. It is also known as a cause-and-effect diagram. Ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their environment, tools, and tasks in order to improve comfort, productivity, and safety. Combining both together as shown in the modified fishbone diagram, shows how they can be used to identify specific issues to a problem and to evaluate potential solutions when brainstorming ideas. To use a fishbone diagram for musculoskeletal injuries, you can start by identifying the problem or injury as the effect. Then, draw the fishbone diagram with the problem or injury in the middle of the fishbone. The categories of possible causes can include equipment, environment, work methods, layout, human factors, the system in which the task occurs, and psycho-social concerns. Under each category, identify the possible causes of the injury or problem. This can help you identify the root cause of the injury and implement preventive measures to avoid similar incidents in the future. The diagram shows aches and pains in long-term workers from manually cleaning equipment in the food processing industry. There are no lost time injuries, however most workers are experiencing pain and an ergonomic assessment found a higher risk of injury. The modified fishbone diagram identified several causes of the pain from using a rag to manually clean the equipment. The solution developed by the workers based on their training and use of this technique was to build a tub to soak the equipment in the disinfectant for 5 minutes and then easily wipe clean instead of hard scrubbing.

Modified Fishbone Diagram for Ergonomic Issues

As seen in these examples of participatory capacity building, these methods effectively empower participants with a collaborative approach to learning in a practical and effective way. OHC has developed a reputation for using participatory training to build capacity with workplace and health and safety committees as well as with community groups. For more examples of applying ergonomic principles to identify hazards and solutions, check out OHC’s ergonomics resource section.

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