Understanding the knowledge translation gap in manual material handling to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders

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University of New Brunswick


Background: Manual material handling (MMH) tasks are a risk factor for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) globally. Several multi-dimensional factors can be potential sources of WMSD risk associated with MMH activities including (a) physical ergonomics factors; (b) organizational factors; and (c) cognitive factors. Despite several ergonomic factors contributing to WMSD, evidence-based injury prevention strategies are often not implemented. This research-to-practice gap has implications for the health and well-being of the workforce. Objective: The aim of the dissertation was to identify the barriers and facilitators to implementing evidence-based MMH practice to prevent WMSDs. Methods: The dissertation involved three research studies to address the research objective: Study 1: Examined 8 years (2012 to 2019) of Canadian WMSD lost time claims data along with ergonomics inspection, compliance, and enforcement (ICE) activities by the provincial/territorial jurisdictions. Study 2: A qualitative study based on the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF) to gain insight into the perceived barriers and facilitators to implementing MMH practices to prevent WMSDs. Study 3: A cross-sectional study based on the TDF, where an online survey questionnaire was developed to extend findings from study 2. Results: Study 1: Based on the MMH-related WMSD claims data, it was encouraging to observe that there does not appear to be a significant rise in MMH-related WMSDs over the eight years from 2015 to 2019, however, there is also no trend towards a reduction in MMH-related WMSD in Canada. Study 2: Based on the TDF, the key theoretical domains identified were: ‘environmental context and resources’, ‘knowledge’, ‘beliefs about consequences’, ‘motivation and goals’, and ‘skills’. The majority of participants encountered barriers in terms of environmental context and resources. Study 3: Based on the TDF this study examined barriers, facilitators, strategies, and best practices to support the effective implementation of MMH practices. Conclusion: This interdisciplinary dissertation examined MMH-related WMSD claims data and identified multiple perceptions of barriers and facilitators based on the TDF for implementing evidence-based MMH practices to prevent WMSDs. The findings suggest that the need for senior management's commitment, proactive employee participation in injury prevention, and the necessity for specific MMH legislation within the OHS Regulations.