Psychosocial hazards and musculoskeletal disorders: Are there different roles for workplace factors between office workers in Malaysia and Australia?

Jodi Oakman, Ismail Maakip, Tessa Keegel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are considered to be a major occupational health problem contributing significantly to absenteeism, disability and loss of productivity. The majority of studies related to MSDs have been conducted in developed countries such as Australia, and it is proposed that contributing factors linked with MSD development might operate differently in developing countries like Malaysia, as a result of sociocultural differences. A key issue in the development of MSDs is the contribution of psychosocial factors; however, this is not reflected in current management practices which tend to focus predominately on physical factors. Malaysia and Australia have very different societal structures, which influence the way work is organised and the expectations of employees at their workplaces. Therefore, it is plausible that the contribution of workplace factors to MSD development might differ. This chapter will explore a range of issues in relation to the development of MSDs and use a population of office workers in Australia and Malaysia to explore different explanatory models. A survey tool was used to assess a range of workplace and personal factors, including: work-life balance, job satisfaction, physical hazards, coping strategies, and psychosocial hazards. Analysis was undertaken to assess relevant predictors for each population and then a comparison undertaken to identify key differences between the populations. The chapter will also discuss the results from a qualitative study of female Malaysian office workers who were asked about their coping strategies for persistent musculoskeletal pain. Despite similarities in the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort in both the Australian and Malaysian populations, differences were identified in the relative contribution of factors. The findings from this study provide insights into future policy development of management of MSDs. Malaysia is at a formative stage in term of risk management for MSDs and as such a different focus is needed to adequately address relevant workplace factors.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychosocial Factors at Work in the Asia Pacific
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Theory to Practice
EditorsAkihito Shimazu, Rusli Bin Nordin, Maureen Dollard, Jodi Oakman
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9783319444000
ISBN (Print)9783319443997
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hazards
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Physical
  • Psychsocial
  • Risk management

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