Online Program

Job Exposure Matrices for estimating workplace physical exposures

Monday, November 2, 2015

Brad Evanoff, MD, MPH, Division of General Medical Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Ann Marie Dale, PhD, Division of General Medical Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Bethany Gardner, OTD, Division of General Medical Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Background: While workplace physical exposures are associated with musculoskeletal disease (MSD) and other health outcomes, current methods of exposure assessment have significant limitations. A Job Exposure Matrix (JEM) provides an efficient option for estimating physical exposures, particularly in large cohorts and for retrospective exposures.

Methods: Literature review; discussion of methods used in ongoing studies.

Results: Use of JEM to estimate physical exposures is increasingly common; JEM have been recently applied to diverse outcomes including carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis of the back and lower extremities, shoulder disorders, vascular diseases, pregnancy, and work disability. JEM for chemical exposures typically rely on data from direct workplace measures; most JEMs for physical exposures have relied on expert ratings of exposure or pooling of self-reported exposure at the job level. O*NET, a national database of requirements for different jobs, uses both self-reported and expert rating data, and has been used to estimate physical exposures in several studies. These different strategies will be presented and compared, including examples from ongoing studies. Advantages of JEM include lack of individual level information biases, and the ability to assign exposures retrospectively based on job titles. A disadvantage is the inability to account for exposure variation between workers in the same job.  

Conclusion: JEM are increasingly used to estimate workplace physical exposures, and can assign valid and unbiased work exposure estimates to large population datasets containing no exposure data beyond job titles. These JEM methods should be more widely recognized to advance occupational disease epidemiology.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the advantages and disadvantages of Job Exposure Matrices (JEM) for physical exposure assessment Describe the three primary sources of exposure data used to construct JEM Identify opportunities to use JEM to add exposure data to worker health outcomes, and to eliminate bias in self-reported data

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the PI of multiple federal grants and first or senior author on papers studying the association of workplace physical exposures and musculoskeletal disorders. Among my scientific interests is improving exposure assessment for the study of workplace physical exposures. I have published several papers using JEM, and am now working to extend these methods.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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