Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

20th November 2019

Currently in Great Britain, there are 498,000 workers suffering with a new or long-standing musculoskeletal disorder, resulting in 6.9 million working days to be lost as a result of this every single year (HSE 2018/19). Given how common these disorders are within the workplace, and the direct negative impact it can have on productivity levels, it’s important employers are aware of these disorders, and how it impacts their employees and their business. This is not only to help prevent them musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace as far is as reasonably possible, but also to ensure that employees who are already affected by a disorder are supported fully at work. Find out more in the below post.

What are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)?

Musculoskeletal disorders affect the muscles, joints and tendons in all parts of the body, and generally progress over a period of time, however they can also occur as a result of an accident. Within the workplace, musculoskeletal disorders can occur due to some of the following reasons:

  • Repetitive motions, or high task repetition
  • Repetitive strains
  • Overuse syndrome
  • Manual handling or force focussed on a small area of the body (such as the hand or wrist)
  • Prolonged incorrect posture or sitting positions

Continual exposure to any of these risk factors can result in long term MSDs.

An employee may be affected in some of the following ways:

  • Back pain
  • Upper limb disorders (ULDs) – covering anything to do with the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and neck
  • Lower limb disorder (LLDs) – relating to disorders of the hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet
  • Display screen equipment – which can result in headaches and vision problems

Industries which are known for MSDs

Musculoskeletal disorders can affect workers in various industries, particularly in jobs where an employee is in a set position for an extended period of time, or uses repetitive motions. However, industries with higher than average rates of these disorders include:

  • Construction
  • Office workers
  • Agriculture
  • Human health and social work

Regardless of the industry, you work in, it is important to address that risk factors that are presented, and control these factors as far as is reasonably possible. This is something that a dedicated health surveillance provider can help you with.

What can be done to control and prevent MSDs?

There are several laws in place that are in relation to musculoskeletal disorders, therefore compliance is mandatory. In order to work in line with legislation, initially, health and safety and risk assessments should be carried out to identify the hazards that employees are exposed to in the workplace. Then, as part of a wider health surveillance service, measures can be put in place to ensure that these risks are being controlled as far as is reasonably possible.


Ergonomics helps to asses the relationship between people and their job, to ensure there is a healthy fit between the two. An occupational health advisor is able to spot hazards, assess ergonomic issues, and recommend how applying ergonomics can help to reduce the risk of MSDs’ occurring. These ergonomic recommendations depend on an individuals’ job role and the tasks they carry out as part of this, their physical and psychological characteristics, as well as the organisation and environment that the person works in.

Some of the measures put in place to help control ergonomic risks include:

  • Assessing and re-organising the way that tasks are carried out, such as introducing job rotation and job enrichment. Doing so helps to ensure workers aren’t constricted to a set task (and therefore movement) for longer than a fixed period of time.
  • Adjusting the workstation – such as providing different options to stand and sit, rather than staying in a fixed position throughout the duration of their shift.
  • Using appropriate tools and equipment for tasks.
  • Providing full information and training to employees on the proper use of equipment and posture.

If you would like to find out more about how our health surveillance service can help you to prevent musculoskeletal disorders from occurring in the workplace, get in touch with our occupational health team today.

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