How to prevent musculoskeletal problems at work


Maintaining good musculoskeletal health is imperative to staying physically and mentally fit. It is essential to all forms of work, as we rely on our musculoskeletal system for mobility, dexterity and co-ordination. However, over the past few years, the number of people suffering from musculoskeletal disorders has risen significantly. 

How to prevent musculoskeletal problems at work

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are injuries or pain in the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, tendons, nerves, joints, or any other supporting structure in the body, such as discs in the back. MSK conditions range in severity, but in some cases the pain and discomfort can interfere with day-to-day activities.

A nationwide problem

There are several risk factors associated with MSK conditions such as age, lifestyle and family history, and they can be exacerbated by certain activities, including sitting in the same position each day, lifting heavy items and performing repetitive motions. So, it may come as little surprise that these conditions are a common cause of workplace injury.

In fact, according to the Health and Safety Executive, work-related MSK conditions accounted for 41 per cent of the 1.31 million work-related illnesses that were reported in 2016, equating to 8.8 million lost working days. And it’s not just impacting sectors that traditionally rely on manual labour such as construction – desk-based workers are equally at risk of developing conditions such as these.

Creating an environment where maintaining musculoskeletal health is prioritised can help reduce the number of employees struggling, which in turn can reduce the associated costs to your business, such as sick pay, lost productivity and loss of skills.

Supporting your workforce

Having a robust health and wellbeing strategy is key, and a proactive approach should be taken to minimise risks that may cause work-based MSK conditions. Before you can provide support to your employees to allow for the prevention of musculoskeletal problems, you need to understand the physical challenges they face, including the characteristics of their job and any current physical ailments they may be dealing with.

Workplace assessments

Providing assessments of working environments, such as Display Screen Equipment, Ergonomic and Functional Capacity Assessments will enable you to identify potential health hazards and make adjustments accordingly.

For example, employees who spend the majority of their time sitting at a desk are at an increased risk of neck and back pain, as they tend to strain to look at a computer monitor that is incorrectly placed; this adds pressure to the joints and muscles. Introducing a preventative workshop that offers tips and advice, such as maintaining good posture, taking regular screen breaks and moving around the office every hour, is a simple and cost-effective way of raising awareness of musculoskeletal health among employees.

Nurture an open culture

Employees should feel comfortable discussing their concerns regarding their physical health, so promoting discussions about health and wellbeing will foster a culture of openness. Circulating information and advice on MSK health using internal channels such as blogs, newsletters and notice boards and offering access to occupational health services will reassure your employees that any issues they are facing will be taken seriously.

Offer timely access to private services

Access to NHS physiotherapy via GP referral can take up to 14 weeks, during which time conditions can become chronic. By providing timely access to private physiotherapy services, employees can be treated within a matter of days, helping to reduce pain levels, enabling them to return to work faster and boosting your business’s productivity.

For example, health cash plans such as Health Shield's, can give you access to services such as Physio Med, which provide physiotherapy solutions to workplaces and assists businesses in reducing sickness absence and the costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism.

With MSK conditions becoming increasingly commonplace, ensuring that your employees are equipped with the knowledge they need and helping them to find solutions regarding their musculoskeletal health can make a real impact on their wellbeing and will reduce the impact on your business.

This article was provided by Health Shield.


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