Most of us know that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can be painful and disabling to workers. Plus these injuries to muscles, ligaments or other soft tissues negatively affect your company’s bottom line. Preventing MSDs can help enhance workers’ health, increase productivity and improve your company’s economic growth.
Institute for Work & Health researchers have developed six messages to help prevent and control MSDs in workers. The messages (see below) are based on extensive knowledge gained from the Institute’s four-year prevention systematic reviews program.
During this pilot program, which began in 2004, IWH staff reviewed and analyzed thousands of articles on specific topics related to preventing work-related injuries and illness.
We took the results from our 22 reviews and turned them into practical knowledge for occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, says Institute Scientific Director Dr. Benjamin Amick. More than 100,000 articles were examined.
In addition, considerable input from dozens of practitioners, policy-makers, OHS professionals and other interested stakeholders helped the program’s success.
Stakeholders’ input was crucial because they provided vital feedback and suggestions throughout the pilot program, says Amick.
Stakeholders were also critical because ultimately they will be using the knowledge that stems from the reviews and, if they can’t use that knowledge, then we haven’t succeeded.
Messages for Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders
These messages were presented at the Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health conference by Emma Irvin, Director of Research Operations.
- Communicate that OHS programs are cost-effective.
- Encourage participatory programs that involve workers, supervisors and others.
- Consider the six keys to success in implementing programs (see the IWH website at www.iwh.on.ca/sys-reviews/implementation-of-pe-interventions for a list of the six keys).
- Remind everyone that there are no quick fixes.
- Design and use programs that are aimed at different levels of staff and that have many components.
- Consider exercise programs, which may provide a double bonus as they prevent MSDs and promote general good health.
Program faced challenges
Although researchers developed these messages based on accumulated research results, the program had some challenges.
The overall body of research literature in occupational health and safety is less mature than others, such as clinical studies of medical care, notes Emma Irvin, Director of Research Operations.
For instance, clinical studies are easier to locate and assess as they follow a consistent format and have a consistent set of keywords applied to them. However, this is not the case for the OHS literature. These studies tend to be different from one another. There is very little consistency around how these studies are reported and there are no consistent keywords applied to them, which makes them more difficult to find.
Now that the pilot prevention reviews program is coming to an end, Amick notes there’s still much more work to be done.
Although the reviews that we were slated to do are now complete, we are taking the knowledge and developing tools – some of which will be ready in 2009 – based on the research, he says. In addition, the Institute will continue to conduct prevention systematic reviews to help to build and enhance the knowledge base.
For more information, visit: www.iwh.on.ca/six-messages-for-preventing-MSDs.
Source: At Work, Issue 54, Fall 2008: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto