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Occupational health and safety management practices and musculoskeletal disorders in aged care: Are policy, practice and research evidence aligned?

Jodi Oakman (Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Timothy Bartram (Department of Management and Marketing, La Trobe Business School, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce (ASSC), La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether occupational health and safety (OHS) management used to manage musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the aged care sector reflects contemporary research evidence of best practice to reduce the incidence of these disorders.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 58 interviews were conducted with managers and supervisors in the aged care sector across four organisations in Australia. Policies and procedures relating to MSDs were reviewed for each organisation.

Findings

Policies and procedures for managing MSDs do not reflect contemporary evidence, which supports a complex aetiology, related to a range of physical and psychosocial workplace factors. Despite strong evidence that psychosocial factors contribute to MSD development, these were not included in the policies and procedures reviewed. Findings from the interviews management practices including leadership and various components of HRM were functioning well but fragmentation was evident due to the challenging nature of the aged care sector.

Practical implications

To address the significant burden of MSDs in the aged care sector, policies and procedures need to include coverage of psychosocial and physical workplace factors. The development of systematic and integrated OHS management at the workplace level may play an important role in the effective management of MSDs.

Originality/value

This study offers insights into the previously unexplored area of MSD risk management and the role of management practices such as HRM in the aged care sector.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project is funded by WorkSafe Victoria, through the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research. Ethics approval was obtained from the La Trobe University Human Research Ethics Committee, approval number FHEC13/035.

Citation

Oakman, J. and Bartram, T. (2017), "Occupational health and safety management practices and musculoskeletal disorders in aged care: Are policy, practice and research evidence aligned?", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 331-346. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-03-2017-0061

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited