Project: Musculoskeletal injury as part of the job - Health and safety in hand-intensive health care occupations

Peer reviewed and published

This project was submitted on 30/06/2015, published on 15/06/2015 by IOSH short report: Hand-on , and peer reviewed by IOSH research panel

The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) in hand-intensive health care occupations, specifically in Irish chartered physiotherapists, physical and athletics therapists and to identify work risk factors and best practice strategies for the prevention of WRULDs.

Two questionnaire studies were conducted: A cross-sectional study with 347 employed and self-employed therapists and a follow-up study with 74 students at baseline in their final year of training with follow-up 12 months after graduation (n=22) to investigate early career onset of WRULDs.

Musculoskeletal symptoms were high with 82.5% of experienced therapists reporting symptoms in at least one upper limb body part during the past year and a 25.7% annual prevalence of incapacitating symptoms. Upper limb symptoms to the shoulders, neck and thumbs accounted for most of the 12 month prevalence. Neck, shoulder and wrist symptoms accounted for most of the incapacitating symptoms. 37.5% reported at least one clinical diagnosis.
Work risk factors with significant associations to UL health included perceived physical effort during manual therapy, work organisation - specifically lack of sufficient breaks and input into scheduling, and psychosocial factors including social support, predictability of work and influence at work. Analyses accounted for demographics, physical work load, lifestyle factors and mental health. Therapists with injury prevention training and with risk assessments completed in their workplace had a lower rate of UL symptoms. One year incidence rate for new symptoms in graduates was 40% with 15 newly developed incidence cases, mainly in thumbs and neck.

Recommendations, conclusions
Results suggest that injury prevention training that goes beyond the current manual handling training programme with a particular focus on UL injury prevention is crucial at an early career stage. Guidance documents and detailed good practice models on work organisation, rest breaks, input into scheduling and provision of peer and professional support for the prevention of WRULDs needs to be considered and developed for hand-intensive health care occupations.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Organisation: University College Cork

Medicine & Health
Epidemiology & Public Health
Western Gateway Building,
Western Road,

Principal Investigator: Dr Birgit Greiner
University College Cork,
Department of Epidemiology & Public Health,
Western Gateway Building,
Work-related musculoskeletal injury, psychosocial hazard risk assessment, work stress, health and safety climate research, occupational epidemiology
Peer review

Other Researchers: Sheilah Nolan
Dervla Hogan

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