Insights into work-related MSDs
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are widespread and
have a significant impact on individuals, employers and the wider
economy. In educating and regulating industry, HSE guidance needs
to remain relevant and practicable in ever-changing workplaces.
HSE therefore conducted some research in order to improve our
understanding of employer and worker knowledge, attitudes,
behaviours and needs regarding the prevention and management of
Research focused on three priority sectors where rates are
particularly high and job roles involve a significant amount of
manual handling: construction, transportation and storage (parcel
carriers), and healthcare (nursing).
Due to the nature and scale of the project (and to provide
greater objectivity), HSE commissioned an independent research
agency to conduct ethnography and qualitative interviews with
employers and workers. This followed an initial literature review
by HSE specialists.
Key findings from the research were as follows:
- The language around MSDs was not consistently understood or
applied by either employers or workers, with implications for
workplace communication and application of controls
- Workplace cultures often acted as a barrier to healthy working
- for example, macho behaviour in construction and 'patient first'
mentality in nursing
- Nine other barriers were identified, relating to worker and
employer motivation, situational or 'in the moment' factors and how
workplaces were structured and organised
- There was a need for greater innovation beyond traditional
workplace interventions such as generic manual handling training
This research gave valuable insights into why musculoskeletal
disorders rates remain high in three of HSE's priority sectors.
HSE's in-house team then worked closely with MSD and sector policy
teams to turn the research findings into new sector interventions
as well as informing future policy and strategy.
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