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Abstract

Background

Photovoice, a photographic participatory action research methodology was used in a workplace setting to assess hazards that were creating extremely high injury and incidents rates for university custodians and to promote the conditions to eliminate or reduce those hazards.

Methods

University custodians participated in a Photovoice project to identify, categorize, and prioritize occupational hazards and to discuss and propose solutions to these problems. Results were presented to management and to all custodians for further discussion. The effort was led by a worker-based union-sponsored participatory evaluation team in partnership with a university researcher.

Results

Visual depiction of hazardous tasks and exposures among custodians and management focused primarily on improper or unsafe equipment, awkward postures, lifting hazards, and electrical hazards. The process of taking pictures and presenting them created an ongoing discussion among workers and management regarding the need for change and for process improvements, and resulted in greater interest and activity regarding occupational health among the workers. In a follow-up evaluation 1-year later, a number of hazards identified through Photovoice had been corrected. Injury rates for custodians had decreased from 39% to 26%.

Conclusions

Photovoice can be an important tool, not just for identifying occupational hazards, but also empowering workers to be more active around health and safety and may facilitate important changes in the workplace. Am. J. Ind. Med. 53:1150–1158, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.