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National Research Council releases report on MSD Intervention Programs

January 18, 2001
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Scientific evidence shows that musculoskeletal disorders of the lower back and upper extremities can be attributed to particular jobs and working conditions - including heavy lifting, repetitive and forceful motions, and stressful work environments, says a new report form the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Each year, these disorders affect about 1 million workers and cost the nation between $45 billion and $54 billion in compensation expenditures, lost wages, and decreased productivity. But the problem can be reduced with well-designed intervention programs. Industry data and scientific evidence indicate that properly implemented strategies to reduce the incidence, severity, and consequences of work-related MSDs can be effective, the panel said. Successful programs can be found in a variety of job settings, and they take into account procedures, equipment, and characteristics specific to the organization. Furthermore, these programs usually involve a high level of commitment from employers and employees.

When OSHA began making plans to implement regulations covering MSDs in the workplace, Congress asked the National Academies to review scientific evidence on work-related causes of MSDs as well as prevention strategies. The Academies’ panel evaluated scientific literature on the topic, invited outside experts to share insights at its meetings, and visited two Ford Motor Co. plants as part of its research. According to the academies, although general principles to reduce the risk of work-related MSDs can be used to develop intervention strategies, programs must be tailored to specific workplaces, the report says. In addition, the programs must be evaluated over time.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Research Council – the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering – and Institute of Medicine are private, non-profit institutions that provide science and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

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