Employees Health – Musculoskeletal Disorders


Musculoskeletal Disorders include any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.

They can cause severe pain to sufferers and significantly affect mobility. As an employer, you must do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that work activities do not result in Musculoskeletal Disorders for your employees or exacerbate existing conditions.

What are the main causes of Musculoskeletal Disorders and how can we prevent them?

Various risk factors are thought to be associated with MSDs, including:

  • Repetitive and/or heavy lifting.
  • Bending and twisting.
  • Repeating an action too frequently.
  • Uncomfortable working position.
  • Exerting too much force.
  • Working too long without break.
  • Adverse working environment (e.g. hot or cold).
  • Psychosocial factors (e.g. high job demands, time pressures and lack of control).
  • Not receiving and acting on reports of symptoms quickly enough.

Manual handling:

Incorrect manual handling is one of the most comment injuries at work, it includes the lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling of a load.

The risks to manual handling when moving objects can be controlled in a number ways as part of your risk assessment e.g:

  • Consider if the manual handling can be avoided all together e.g. can a conveyor belt be used?
  • Can the load be made smaller, lighter and easier to carry? Can the contents of a box of be emptied and broken down into smaller components?
  • Can a lifting aid be used or the distance the load needs to be moved reduced?
  • Provide suitable manual handling training to employees so they know how to lift correctly.
  • Consider the needs of each individual – gender, strength, vulnerability, health conditions.

Repetitive tasks;

Repetitive tasks usually take place in assembly and production work and when regularly using hand tools. This can lead to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Consider:

  • Reducing the duration of the task e.g. regular rest breaks and job rotation.
  • Reducing the impact/force of the task e.g. the improved tools or process.
  • Ensuring the working environment is as comfortable as possible.
  • The ergonomic set up of the workstation.
  • Individual capability and health conditions.

DSE: Display screen equipment

Many workplaces are now office spaces with employees spending most of their day at a computer. DSE use can result in various upper limb disorders caused by over use or improper use of the equipment. The key to preventing DSE related Musculoskeletal Disorders is the correct set up of the workstation and appropriate use of equipment, this should be done as part of your DSE assessment.

Controls to consider may include:

  • Arranging the workstation so items used the most frequently are in easy reach with a desk large enough to accommodate all documents and equipment.
  • Equipment such as a keyboard and mouse must be suitable and fit for purpose, consider additional equipment such as foot stools and wrist rests.
  • Desk chairs should have an adjustable height and back rest.
  • Avoid glare, or bright reflections onto the screen.
  • Regular rest breaks from DSE use.
  • Training in correct use of DSE and employee engagement in DSE assessments.

Avensure can provide online training courses in DSE and manual handling as well as ongoing advice and support with all your health and safety issues.