Prevalence of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction in electrical utility workers: practical considerations for prevention and rehabilitation in the workplace.

Shane Rogerson, Michael Climstein, Rudi Meir, Zachary Crowley-McHattan, Neil D. Chapman

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Abstract

Introduction
This study assessed the prevalence and associations of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction in electrical utility workers, with the aim of applying the findings to better prevent and rehabilitate workplace musculoskeletal disorders.

Methods
Employees completed an online survey recording their musculoskeletal symptoms across nine anatomical locations for the preceding 12 months. A total of 565 employees, working across eight different electrical utility organisational work units, completed the survey.

Consumer and Community Involvement
The study was collaborative and conducted in Australia's largest, wholly government owned electricity company. The study originated from the participating organisation wanting to better understand their musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risks.

Results
Employees who experienced high job stress were 4.06 times (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.78–9.29) more likely to report musculoskeletal symptoms in the shoulder compared with employees with lower reported job stress. Employees that perceived their work to have high physical demands report lower back musculoskeletal symptoms at 2.64 times the rate of those perceiving their job to be of low physical demand (95% CI = 1.44–4.84). There were significant differences in the lower back musculoskeletal symptoms according to work unit membership.

Conclusions
Understanding the prevalence of MSDs is critical to implementing practical prevention and rehabilitation strategies in the workplace. This anonymous survey highlighted that a large proportion of electrical utility workers reported that musculoskeletal symptoms had impacted their ability to perform their job, housework and/or hobbies in the preceding 12 months. Early access to rehabilitation services is essential. However, many workers report barriers to disclosing MSDs; therefore, workplace rehabilitation services may need to be broadened to account for these barriers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2024

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