Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2014;40(4):400-410    pdf full text


Role of the work-unit environment in the development of new shoulder pain among hospital workers: a longitudinal analysis

by Lamy S, Descatha A, Sobaszek A, Caroly S, De Gaudemaris R, Lang T

Objective This study aimed to test longitudinal associations linking the work-unit-level psychosocial and organizational work environment and biomechanical constraints to workers’ shoulder pain in the French multi-centre cohort ORSOSA study of registered nurses (RN) and nursing assistants (NA).

Methods We analyzed 1896 female RN and NA, who were free of shoulder pain in 2006 and in the same position and work unit in 2008. Incident shoulder pain (SP) was defined as self-reported pain that persists for ≥4 days and/or increases during a lateral movement of the arm away from the midline of the body (abduction). Both cross-sectional and longitudinal models were built to test if work-unit-level features or their influences on both work tasks and individual perception of the work environment directly influence the risk of developing incident SP.

Results RN in work units with understaffing issues or poor relationships reported higher levels of biomechanical constraints in movements and postures and a lower level of perceived job security and stability. NA who experienced such issues reported higher levels of biomechanical constraints in indirect patient-handling activities only. The exposure to these latter factors was associated with higher two-year incident SP among workers.

Conclusion This study shows that the work-unit-level organizational characteristics may impact workers’ musculoskeletal disorders by conditioning both work-task-related biomechanical exposures and individual perception of the working environment. In healthcare settings, primary prevention programs to reduce MSD would benefit from a focus on work unit level exposures.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2001;27 suppl 1:1-102  2002;28(6):394-401  2006;32(4):285-293  2007;33(1):58-65  2010;36(3):189-201