Policies | Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) Interventions

Health-related policies to prevent WMSDs1-9

Workplace policies promote a corporate “culture of good health.”

Design policies to demonstrate management commitment to worker safety

  • The CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a primer, Elements of Ergonomic Programs, outlining the basics of implementing and evaluating workplace ergonomic programs which includes recommendations for workplace management to reduce WMSDs; a toolkit of techniques and methods; and illustrations of the practical experiences gained by NIOSH through workplace investigations. The primer focuses on the following seven steps for addressing WMSD concerns in a workplace which can demonstrate the employer’s commitment to worker safety
    • Look for signs of potential WMSD problems in the workplace such as job tasks that require repetitive, forceful exertion
    • Show management commitment in addressing possible problems by encouraging worker involvement in problem-solving activities
    • Offer training to management and workers to enhance knowledge and skill in evaluating potential WMSDs
    • Gather data to identify jobs or work conditions that are the most problematic
    • Identify effective controls, such as engineering controls related to workstation layout, for tasks that pose WMSD risks
    • Establish health care management emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment of WMSDs
    • Minimize risk factors when planning new work processes and operations

Policies that enhance worksite lifestyle programs such as physical activity are important in managing 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 policy strategies and interventions listed for nutrition and physical activity include lifestyle activities recommended that can be promoted to individuals with arthritis

Disability management and return to work policies can provide support to employees with WMSDs

  • Policies and programs that are designed to prevent, treat, and/or rehabilitate WMSDs (disability management) or facilitate the return of ill, injured or disabled employees to work as soon as they are able to perform meaningful, productive work in accordance with a physician’s guidance (return to work) are beneficial to both the employer and employee. There are several reasons for employers to implement effective disability management and return to work programs beyond the human and financial costs to the employer and employee including:
    • Contributing to a safer work environment
    • Maintaining a skilled workforce in the event of employee disability
    • Assisting employees with re-entry to the workforce following an injury or illness through transitional work and reasonable accommodations
    • Increasing workers sense of security knowing that their employer will provide support and assistance in the event of disability

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.