Ergonomic Issues Dominate Occupational Health Citation Classics

Ergonomic Issues Dominate Occupational Health Citation Classics

A recent survey to identify occupation health citation classics (occupational health articles written since 1949 that have been referred to 100 or more times in research studies) revealed that four of the top 10 most cited scientific investigations involved ergonomic concerns and occupation musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Table 1 presents the all-star ergonomics studies.

Overall Rank

Number of Citations

Article Title





Psychosocial factors at work and musculoskeletal disease

PM Bongers, CR deWinter, MAJ Kompier, and VH Hildebrandt

Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 1993; 19(5):297-312



Occupational factors and carpal tunnel syndrome

BA Silverstein, LJ Fine, and TJ Armstrong

American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 1987;11(3):343-358



Prevalence rates and odds ratios of shoulder-neck diseases in different occupational groups

M Hagberg and DH Wegman

British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 1987;44(9):602-610



Hand wrist cumulative trauma disorders in industry

BA Silverstein, LJ Fine, and TJ Armstrong

British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 1986;43(11):779-784

Table 1: Listing of ergonomics related articles defined as citation classics


Work-related musculoskeletal disorders were the research focus of 13 of the 85 designated citation classics (15.3 percent). Among the 21 citation classics published in the 1990s, 10 involved work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

No citation classic addressed occupational health intervention. Rather, they were occupational exposure or etiologic studies.

The Bottom Line - How This Applies To Ergonomists

Due to their high impact, an awareness of these landmark research papers is valuable for:

  • Referencing to management when proposing an ergonomic process
  • Defending the scientific basis for occupational ergonomics
  • Explaining the value of ergonomics in a training/presentation/discussion

Further, citation rates provide a historical perspective of ergonomics professional development.

Study Design

Five key occupational health journals were reviewed based on their professional importance determined from a prior study and the Journal Citation Report (2004). The publications included:

  • American Journal of Industrial Medicine
  • Occupational and Environmental Medicine (British Journal of Industrial Medicine prior to 1994)
  • International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Starting in 1949, over 15,500 published investigations were reviewed.  The Science Citation Index Expanded was used to find frequently referenced studies.

A paper was considered a citation classic if it was referenced 100 times.  The analysis revealed that 85 papers met this criteria.

Other Points

1) The most cited article was referenced 979 times with 68 percent of the classics cited between 100 and 150 times.

2) Nearly 59 percent of the citation classics (50 of 85) were published in the 1980s and 1990s.

3) Since occupational health studies are published in a wide variety of journals, these statistics underestimate and may skew occupational medicine’s citation classics.

Article Title: Citation classics in occupational medicine journals

Publication: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 33(4), 245-251, 2007

Authors: J-F Gehanno, K Takahashi, S Darmoni, and J Weber

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