7 December 2017
A musculoskeletal disorder is any damage or injury of the muscles and/or joints of the back and limbs.1 Musculoskeletal disorder cases accounted for 41% of all work related illnesses in 2015/16 in the UK. And in the past year in the UK alone, musculoskeletal disorders were responsible for an average of 16 working days lost per person, or a total of 8.8 million working days.2
Back and joint pain can be a serious obstacle in the daily lives of employees, affecting the work they do as well. These suggestions can help minimise the causes of back pain in the workplace.
It's about design
The way the workplace is designed plays an important role in preventing back and joint pain. Make sure the environment is as safe as possible, clear of any tripping or falling hazards that can lead to back injury. Provide employees with proper equipment, such as ergonomic desk spaces for office workers and the necessary tools and gear for manual workers. Even small changes such as adjusting the height of worktops or providing better handles on loads can make a job physically easier for employees.3
It's about training
Even with all the necessary equipment, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders is still present. This is where training and information come into play. Training employees how to properly use tools and gear and training manual workers about proper posture and lifting techniques when dealing with loads can make a big difference in joint and back health. Additionally, encourage employees to take frequent short breaks. Breaking up long periods of sitting this way is better for the back than fewer and longer breaks.4
IT'S ABOUT taking action
Prevention is the best cure. And in the case of ergonomics and preventing musculoskeletal disorder, starting early and methodically is the best solution. Perform a company evaluation with a risk assessment and then take the identified steps to improve the current situation. Get employees involved and advocate their participation in discussions for ideas and solutions, as well as getting them involved in the process. This will not only make the changes more welcome and easy to adopt, but will also keep their level of commitment high.5 Furthermore, encourage employees to report symptoms early and to help spot potential workplace risks.
1. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Musculoskeletal Disorders. http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/. Accessed 12 September 2017.
2. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder Statistics, Great Britain 2016. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/musculoskeletal/msd.pdf. Accessed 11 September 17.
3. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Preventing back pain - What can I do to help protect workers? http://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/backpain/employers/preventing.htm. Accessed 12 September 2017.
4. National Health Service (NHS). Back pain at work. 2016. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/backpainatwork.aspx. Accessed 12 September 2017.
5. Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Ergonomics and human factors at work. 2013. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg90.pdf. Accessed 12 September 2017.