Question 5: How intensely and widely implemented are workplace interventions to prevent MSDs?

To improve health and musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) outcomes generally, three conditions need to be met: 1) The choice of intervention must be well chosen to address the risk factors identified; 2) the type of intervention is known to be efficacious for the setting of interest; and 3) it is implemented widely and intensely. To focus on the latter, recent studies are throwing light on the intensity of interventions by documenting exposure changes, coverage and adherence, and the connections between the reported exposure changes and health changes reported.

In order to achieve intensity, an intervention must substantially reduce exposure in high risk tasks, must address the highest risks, either peaks or long term exposures, be available to all those with high exposures, and must be used by those same people. If any of these factors are small, the resulting intensity of the intervention will be low and the probability of improved musculoskeletal health outcomes will also be low. Moreover, to have a societally useful impact, efficacious interventions must be implemented in a large proportion of workplaces with risk factors. Yet, it appears that few workplaces are substantial controlling their MSD hazards.

For more information, read the editorial Why have we not solved the MSD problem?, by Dr. Richard Wells.