Environmental Support | Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) Interventions

Environmental support to prevent WMSDs1-9

Environmental support provides a worksite physically designed to encourage good health.

Intervention strategies for controlling ergonomic hazards that are associated with risk factors for WMSDs include developing engineering and administrative controls

  • The preferred approach to preventing and controlling WMSDs revolve around the design of jobs and job tasks. Job design related to ergonomic interventions includes workstation layout; selection and use of tools; and work methods that account for the capabilities and limitations of workers such as modifying or accommodating employees with functional limitations secondary to WMSDs
  • If risk factors for WMSDs are present following a job analysis, employers can implement engineering controls to reduce ergonomic risk including: changing workstation layout such as locating tools within short reaching distances; changing the way materials or parts are transported or manipulated such as using mechanical assist devices; changing work processes or products to reduce exposures to risk factors
  • Administrative controls can also be helpful in the short term until more permanent engineering controls are established, if possible
  • Common administrative controls for reducing the risk of WMSDs include: reducing shift length or limiting overtime; scheduling more breaks to allow rest and recovery; rotating workers through several jobs with different physical demands to reduce stress on the body; and adjusting the pace of work to relieve repetitive motion risks and increase worker control of the work process
  • The CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Elements of Ergonomic Programs primer contains detailed discussion and examples on developing, implementing, and evaluating engineering and administrative controls

Environmental support for physical activity or weight management is effective in improving health outcomes for persons with arthritis

  • Research has shown that physical activity decreases pain, improves function, and delays disability for persons with arthritis
  • Research suggests that maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of developing arthritis and may decrease disease progression
  • The health-related environmental support strategies and inverventions for physical activity and nutrition include lifestyle activities that can be promoted to individuals with arthritis

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Elements of ergonomic programs: a primer based on evaluations of musculoskeletal disorders. 1997. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-117. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-117/.

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Targeting arthritis: improving quality of Life for more than 46 million Americans, At-A-Glance 2008. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008.

3.  Dunlop DD. Risk factors for functional decline in older adults with arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2005;52:1274–82.

4.  Shih M, Hootman JM, Kruger J, Helmick CG. Physical Activity in Men and Women with Arthritis: National Health Interview Survey, 2002. Am J Prev Med 2006; 30(5):385–393.

5.  Penninx BW, Messier SP, Rejeski WJ, et al. Physical exercise and the prevention of disability in activities of daily living in older persons with osteoarthritis. Arch Intern Med 2001;161:2309–16.

6.  Westby MD. A health professional’s guide to exercise prescription for people with arthritis: a review of aerobic fitness activities. Arthritis Rheum 2001;45:501–11.

7.  Thomas KS, Muir KR, Doherty M, Jones AC, O’Reilly SC, Bassey EJ. Home-based exercise programme for knee pain and knee osteoarthritis: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2002;325:752.

8.  Messier SP, Loeser RF, Miller GD, et al. Exercise and dietary weight loss in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis: the Arthritis, Diet, and Activity Promotion Trial. Arthritis Rheum 2004;50:1501–10.

9.  Brady TJ, Kruger J, Helmick CG, Callahan LF, Boutaugh ML. Intervention programs for arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Health Educ Behav 2003;30:44–63.