• International Workplace
  • 1 November 2016

Spotlight on musculoskeletal disorders

An estimated 9.5m working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders last year; an average of 17 days lost for each case, according new statistics released by the Work Foundation. This represents 40% of all days lost due to work-related ill-health in 2014/15.

In recognition of the impact this has on the workplace, Bone and Joint Action Week took place in October with a specific focus on ‘Musculoskeletal health to stay in work’.

‘This reflects increasing recognition of the importance of musculoskeletal health to enable people to stay in work, be independent and enjoy a life without pain,’ organisers state.

According to the HSE, work-related disorders can develop in an occupational setting due to the physical tasks with which individuals carry out their normal work activities. Work-related Musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) are associated with work patterns that include:

  • fixed or constrained body positions;
  • continual repetition of movements;
  • force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist; and/or
  • a pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements;

and can affect muscles, joints and tendons in all parts of the body, in the form of strains, sprains and slipped discs, etc.

It is the employer’s duty to take steps to reduce the risk of any injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable, and the employee’s duty to follow systems of work laid down by the employer, and to advise their employers of any significant medical condition that might put them at greater risk.

It’s also important to recognise that these types of injury are not restricted to occupations that involve the manual handling of heavy loads, but could also by caused by lifting weights such as a file in the office. However, the industries with the highest rates of WRMSDs averaged over a three-year period, (2011/12, 2013/14 and 2014/15) are agriculture and forestry, construction, transport and storage and public administration and defence.

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health and work infographic


This series of infographics is intended to help raise awareness and understanding of the relationship between health and work. Produced and published by Public Health England with support and input from The Work Foundation.