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RR379 - A staged approach to reducing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the most prevalent form of occupational ill-health in Great Britain. With a view to improving the efficacy of interventions to tackle such problems, this study examined the applicability of the stage of change approach to health and safety interventions in the workplace. Tools were developed to assess individual worker and organisational stage of change towards reducing the risks of MSDs. These tools were administered and tested in a range of occupational sectors, and were found to demonstrate high levels of reliability.

To examine whether the stage of change approach could improve the effectiveness of interventions in practice, interventions aimed at reducing MSDs were monitored within a variety of organisations. In approximately half of these interventions, approaches were tailored according to managers’ and workers’ stage of change. Tailored interventions were found to be significantly more effective in promoting risk-awareness, promoting behaviour change aimed at reducing the risks, and reducing selfreported musculoskeletal discomfort in a number of body areas. The importance of attitude and behaviour change in the effective reduction of risks was reinforced by managers’ comments in postintervention interviews.

These findings suggest that scope exists for improving the success of interventions by tailoring advice according to stage change, by increasing the uptake, implementation, and maintenance of riskreducing measures.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2009-05-05