Work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders | Health and Safety

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders | Health and Safety

In this article, our H & S Consultant, Colin Jones, discusses work-related musculoskeletal disorders.


Musculoskeletal disorders can affect muscles, joints, and tendons in all parts of the body. Most work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) develop over time. They can be episodic or chronic in duration and can also result from an injury sustained in a work-related accident. Additionally, they can progress from mild to severe disorders. These disorders are seldom life-threatening but they impair the quality of life of a large proportion of the adult population.


Work-related disorders can develop in an occupational setting due to the physical tasks with which individuals carry out their normal work activities. WRMSDs are associated with work patterns that include:


  • Fixed or constrained body positions
  • Continual repetition of movements
  • Force concentrated on small parts of the body such as the hand or wrist
  • A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements


Additionally, workplace psychosocial factors such as organisational culture, the health and safety climate, and human factors may create the conditions for WRMSDs to occur.


Latest statistics (2019/2020)

  • 480,000 workers suffering from work-related MSDs
  • 8.9 million working days lost as a result of work-related MSDs
  • 212,000 workers suffering upper limbs or neck problems
  • 176,000 workers suffering back problems
  • 93,000 workers suffering lower limb problems
  • Research has highlighted the main causes of work-related MSDs was due to manual handling, working in awkward or tiring positions, and keyboard or repetitive work.


Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders by Occupation

Skilled trades occupations, process, plant and machine operatives, caring, leisure, and other service occupations all had statistically significantly higher rates of WRMSD than the rate for all occupations. For the three-year period averaged over 2017/18-2019/20, Skilled trades occupations had 2,150 cases per 100,000 people employed. Process, plant, and machine operatives had 1,720 cases per 100,000 people employed. And caring, leisure and other service occupations had 1,680 cases per 100,000 people employed. This compares with 1,130 cases per 100,000 people employed for all occupational groups over the same period. A number of smaller occupational groupings, many included within the larger groups noted above, also had significantly high rates. These included health professionals, care workers, transport and machine operatives, and several construction-related occupations.


Although the trend for WRMSDs is declining and availability is increasing in the use of technology, mechanical aids, agile working, and changing environments, WRMSDs continue to pose a constant threat to anyone working in the health and social care sector. MSDs can have a huge impact on people’s lives, both in and out of work.


Darren McDonald, Chair of IOSH’s Health and Social Care Group, said: “Musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain and upper and lower limb disorders are a threat in virtually every workplace, and in the health and social care sector they pose unique challenges. While early reporting of symptoms and proper treatment can help when recovering from MSDs, it is important workplaces adapt to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. More needs to be done to improve the management of MSDs and reduce risks to workers.”


Preventative Measures 

Preventative measures are key to ensure WRMSDs are minimised. We all need to constantly remind ourselves to be aware of our environment and the manner in which we are carrying out our work day-to-day. This may present a challenge for those employees who have been or continue to work from home without proper use of equipment. As well as, being disciplined to manage themselves to ensure they maintain correct posture, take breaks, and any other practical control measures. Also for those employees who are returning to work after an extended furlough and need to be re-trained in safe working practices.


At HPC we have recently introduced Health and Safety into the business. Our team of experts can advise you on sector-specific Health and Safety regulations for your business. We are offering a free Health and Safety Health Check worth £350 to all businesses. We want to help provide you with peace of mind that you’re operating safely.  Get in touch with the team today to book in with our H & S expert.


If you have any Health and Safety concerns or would like to discuss anything further, please get in contact with the HPC team today.


T: 0844 800 5932


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

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