The Impact of Return to Work Programs on the Health Status of Injured Workers with Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Malaysian Study

Mohd Murad, Louise Farnworth, Lisa J. O'Brien, Chi-Wen Chien

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Introduction: This study explores the health status of injured workers in return to work (RTW) programs based on their ability and capacity. Injured workers were diagnosed with work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The findings will help not only the service provider plan a specific strategy but also allow stakeholders to review their role in the RTW program. Methods: 102 participants were chosen from a national RTW program, and categorized into three groups based on different phases of the RTW program: off-work (n=30, 29.4%), work re-entry (n=44, 43.1%) and maintenance (n=28, 27.5%). Self-report questionnaires identified demographic data, health surveillance via SF-36 and perceived physical and psychological workload by 10-point numerical scales. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Kruskal-Wallis Test was employed to examine the differences in three phases of the RTW program. Paired t-test analyzed the differences of related samples of physical and psychological workload before and after injuries. Results: The domains of health status are below the average compared to the norm-based population. Mental health component summary is better than physical health. At the domain level, there are significant differences among injured workers, specifically in the three RTW program phases. The SF-36 domains are: role-physical, vitality, bodily-pain, general health, and mental health (p ! 0.049). In contrast, non-significant differences were found in physical and social functioning, and role of emotion status. Moreover, their self-perceived physical and psychological work-load significantly worsened after injuries (p ! 0.020). Conclusions: The case manager-coordinated RTW program provided further opportunities to improve injured workers’ health status when looking at their differences for different phases of RTW. Other health professionals like occupational therapists, ergonomists and psychologists should become involved in the RTW program. Specific guidelines and regulations have to be implemented to ensure full participation with all parties in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-44
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Occupational Safety and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • Health status
  • return to work
  • phases
  • musculoskeletal disorders

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