Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) make up a significant number of work related ill health cases in the United Kingdom. MSD according to the HSE covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.
In the latest 2014/15 figures from the HSE, 53% of cases (383,000 cases) that started more than 12 months ago can be attributed to MSD.
A 2014 survey of workplaces employing more than 5 people revealed that lifting / moving of people and loads was present in just under 60% of workplaces. Activities involving repetitive hand or arm movements and working in tiring and painful positions were also present in about half of all workplaces.
Employers have a duty of care for employees whilst they’re at work and in relation to manual handling for instance they must make sure that hazardous activities are avoided so far as is reasonably practicable. If they can’t avoid the activity then they need to assess it and implement controls to reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable. Employees also have a responsibility to co-operate with the employer when it comes to following procedures, training etc. provided to ensure an employee’s health and safety
The potential problem with MSD is that a large majority of people undertake activities away from the workplace that can also contribute to MSDs however the requirement to avoid, assess, reduce and apply knowledge and awareness provided by training doesn’t exist. MSDs caused by non-work activities can’t be ‘left at home’. Issues are carried over in to the workplace and the two combined can mean real problems for both employees and employers.
As a Triathlete I place a lot of strain on my body through training and racing and I’m very aware of how to look after myself when it comes to lifting techniques for instance. I’m also aware of the impact an injury has on my ability to race so I make sure I apply good technique and control how and what I do at all times to avoid any risk of MSDs. This has become second nature. I believe employers can get real value from raising awareness of MSDs and the sort of things that can be done to avoid them as this knowledge can be employed both at home and work. Making good practice second nature hopefully means that it’s applied in all scenarios and this can result in long term benefits to both the employee and employer.