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Musculoskeletal disorders

This page provides information about the risks of injury to the musculoskeletal system from work activities.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, joints, tendons and bones.

MSDs are the most common occupational illness in Great Britain, affecting one million people a year.

They can happen while doing any activity that involves some movement of the body, from heavy lifting to repetitive typing.

Workers in almost every job are at some sort of risk.

However, there are certain tasks and factors that increase the risk including:

  • repetitive and heavy lifting,
  • bending and twisting,
  • repeating an action too frequently,
  • uncomfortable working position and
  • not acting quickly enough when symptoms are reported.

Back pain in the workplace

One of the most common MSDs is back pain. Back disorders are the most common form of ill health at work. Back pain affects all industries, not just a few high-risk sectors. In 2003 to 2004 an estimated 4.9 million working days were lost due to back pain caused or made worse by work.

Back pain is more common in tasks that involve:

  • heavy manual labour and handling tasks,
  • manual handling in awkward places, like delivery work,
  • repetitive tasks, such as manual packaging of goods,
  • sitting at a workstation for a long period of time if the work station is not adjusted to fit the user and
  • driving long distances or driving over rough ground.

Managing back pain in the workplace

The incidence and severity of back pain can be reduced by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment by carefully examining what could cause harm to people and deciding if you have taken the necessary precautions,
  • eliminating or reducing the risks that can cause back pain, for example, changing the way the work is organised or introducing lifting equipment,
  • designing the task and the workplace to take account of the risks and
  • reviewing the situation in conjunction with the workforce to ensure the changes are effective.

For more information about backs and back pain, click on the link below.

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