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Tasks considered by veterinarians to cause them musculoskeletal discomfort, and suggested solutions

Authors: Legg SJ, Firth EC, Scuffham AM, Stevenson MA
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 37-44, Feb 2010
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Animal type: General, Human
Subject Terms: Animal handling, Disease/defect, Muscle/myology, Pain, Skeletal/bone/cartilage, Veterinary profession
Article class: Scientific Article

AIM: To describe veterinarians’ perceptions of the causes of, and reasons for, work-related musculoskeletal discomfort (MSD), and to summarise their suggestions for ways to reduce the risk of MSD.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study administered online asked 2,112 veterinarians registered in New Zealand to indicate, using free-handed text, the three tasks that “will most likely lead to musculoskeletal aches and pains (MSD)”, reasons “why are these tasks likely to be the most risky?”, and “any solutions that you apply or know of ”.
RESULTS: Complete questionnaires were returned by 828 veterinarians, a response rate of 39%. The tasks considered by veterinarians most likely to lead to MSD were lifting, surgery, rectal palpations, and animal handling. The main reasons why tasks were perceived to be most likely to lead to MSD were awkward posture, repetitive activities, and physical activity. The solutions suggested by veterinarians included provision of appropriate assistance and/or adequate staff, attention to correct manual handling techniques, provision of facilities to allow work to be carried out at a comfortable height, and regular rotation of jobs. Of the 39 solution categories, 16 (41%) could be categorised as those requiring a change in design of the work environment, and 15 (38%) involved training.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study indicate that veterinarians perceive the causes of work-related MSD to be related to physical rather than psychosocial factors. We propose that the findings reported in this study provide a useful starting point for the application of a participatory ergonomics approach for addressing the problem of MSD amongst veterinarians in New Zealand.
KEY WORDS: Animal handling, participatory ergonomics, psychosocial factors, physical factors, veterinary hazards, veterinary procedures

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