Often, when we think of injuries in the workplace our minds jump to immediate accidents that happen without warning as a result of an incident like a trip, fire, or fall.
However, one of the most common workplace injuries is musculoskeletal disorders. In fact, according to the HSE, there were over 470,000 workers suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (new or longstanding) in 2020/21!
Knowing this, organisations must do a better job of ensuring that their employees can mitigate the risk of forming a musculoskeletal disorder.
Why are musculoskeletal issues so common in the workplace?
Musculoskeletal disorders are likely one of the most common workplace injuries because they can be caused by a wide variety of practices.
Some of the most common ways of forming a musculoskeletal disorder include:
- Pushing and pulling heavy loads
- Lifting heavy loads
- Bending, twisting, and reaching for something
- Repetitive actions
- Carrying out tasks for long periods
- Working with display screen equipment (DSE)
- Working with hand-held power tools for a long period
- Driving heavy vehicles long distances or on a rough surface
For this reason, musculoskeletal disorders are common across most industries and over a range of different job roles.
What can be done to prevent musculoskeletal issues in the workplace?
Under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) 1974, employers have a responsibility to ensure “so far as reasonably practicable” the health, safety, and welfare of their employees at work.
Fortunately, musculoskeletal disorders are easily preventable. Employers can show due diligence with this piece of legislation by providing their employees with appropriate information and training on how to prevent these disorders.
Some key areas to look at when considering managing these risks include:
By law, every employer must undertake a risk assessment for health & safety risks within their working environment. These risk assessments must be documented and should also be shared with all employees so they can familiarise themselves with the risks they face and the processes and procedures in place to help them mitigate these risks.
Like any other risk, musculoskeletal disorders should be considered in a risk assessment and employers must identify those who could be considered at risk.
It is essential that employees who have been identified as at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders are provided with the information and training needed to help them prevent these issues from ever occurring.
It is important to provide training to these employees before they start a job that may put them at risk.
This training should cover areas such as how to set up a workstation properly, tips for minimising risks, and what are considered ‘bad habits’.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
It is an employer’s responsibility to provide their employees with appropriate PPE, this should be considered when conducting a risk assessment.
PPE can be a suitable solution for mitigating the risks of forming musculoskeletal disorders. For example, providing vibration-reducing gloves to employees working with power tools can help reduce the chance of forming a musculoskeletal disorder.
Managing health & safety risks with ISO 45001
Protecting employees’ wellbeing is high up on the agenda of all good organisations. Taking decisive action to keep your workforce safe is not only in your organisation’s best interest but is also a legal requirement.
ISO 45001 is a global Standard that provides organisations with a solution to better manage physical health & safety risks, through this occupational health and safety management system you can better protect workers and your reputation while reducing the risk of fines and absenteeism.
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