Effect of Health Protection and Promotion on Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

CFU-15The Effect of Health Protection and Promotion on Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) or TRP2 was a quasi-intervention study conducted at three separate manufacturing plants affiliated with one company.



The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of a combined health protection (participatory ergonomics) and health promotion (participatory wellness) on absenteeism, ergonomic hazards, workmen’s compensation claims, and self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort and general health. The interventions were implemented in two of the plants in a staggered manner in nine-month intervals with the third plant acting as the control. Data on the ergonomic exposures were collected prior to the introduction of the intervention and then at nine-month intervals. Study participants answered a questionnaire at baseline and again at nine-month intervals

  Results and Dissemination


Participatory Ergonomics & Wellness Coaching Yield Health Improvements

Musculoskeletal pain (pain affecting the muscles, bones, or joints) is a very common complaint among workers and results in a large number of missed days from work and workers’ compensation claims. Nathan Fethke, professor of occupational and environmental health, received funding from the Healthier Workforce Center to develop and evaluate a workplace program to address this critical issue in a large window manufacturing company. His research combined wellness coaching for employee-identified issues (e.g., physical activity, stress reduction, weight loss) with a participatory ergonomic approach. Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging equipment to fit the operator so that tasks can be completed more efficiently and safely. The ergonomic assessment was based on video footage of employees performing actual manufacturing tasks and was analyzed to reveal ergonomic issues that could be easily addressed by modifying the task, equipment, or physical position of the employee relative to the task. Participatory ergonomics makes full use of worker involvement in the assessment process, recognizing that the worker is the expert of his or her job. Employers then addressed those ergonomic problems by making changes to the equipment, work schedule, table height, etc. Both the wellness coaching and the ergonomic changes resulted in improvements in physical well-being. The wellness coaching also yielded significant improvements in self-reported overall health and fewer physical limitations. Findings from the study were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Fethke NB, Merlino L, & Gerr F (2013). Effect of ergonomics training on agreement between expert and nonexpert ratings of the potential for musculoskeletal harm in manufacturing tasks. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 55(Suppl. 12S):S82-S85.