Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Hospital Workers

Of all occupational injuries or illnesses among workers in Massachusetts hospitals, about half are work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. The rate of MSDs among Massachusetts hospital workers is, on average, almost twice that of the national rate.  Work-related MSDs are defined as, “disorders or injuries of muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments, joints, or spinal discs that are caused or aggravated by work activities.”  Decreasing the rate of work-related MSDs in Massachusetts is important not only because of the impact on the health of workers, but also because of the large direct and indirect costs associated with work-related MSDs.

In response to the high rate of work-related MSDs in Massachusetts hospital workers, the Occupational Health Surveillance Program (OHSP) has instituted the Hospital Ergonomics Task Force with the goal of developing recommendations regarding the surveillance and prevention of MSDs among hospital workers. The Hospital Ergonomics Task Force comprises representatives from hospitals, health care worker unions and government agencies, as well as academic researchers and ergonomics experts. Initially the focus of the Hospital Ergonomics Task Force will be Safe Patient Handling (SPH) programs, which have been demonstrated to be effective in preventing patient handling injuries, and thus work-related MSDs.