Managing musculoskeletal health in the workplace

Managing musculoskeletal health in the workplace Midlands Health and Safety Consultancy

Having good musculoskeletal health is vital for a full working life. It helps with balance and co-ordination, mobility and dexterity, and contributes to strength and endurance. It also enables us to stay physically and mentally fit and reduce the occurrence of other health problems. These are essential to nearly all forms of work ranging from office workers to manufacturing and companies should be looking at how they can support and manage musculoskeletal health in the workplace.

What is meant by musculoskeletal health?

Musculoskeletal health refers to the performance of the locomotor system, comprising intact muscles, bones, joints and adjacent connective tissues. Musculoskeletal impairments comprise more than 150 different diseases/conditions that affect the system and are characterised by impairments in the muscles, bones, joints and adjacent connective tissues leading to temporary or lifelong limitations in functioning and participation. Musculoskeletal conditions are typically characterised by pain (often persistent) and limitations in mobility and dexterity, reducing people’s ability to work and participate in society.

What can cause musculoskeletal injuries?

In the workplace, MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) are often caused by occupational activities that involve:

  • manual handling of heavy loads
  • exerting high-intensity forces
  • unfavourable postures
  • monotonous/repetitive tasks
  • application of vibration
  • physical environmental conditions
  • psychosocial factors


Most work-related MSDs develop over time. There is usually no single cause of MSDs; various risk factors often work in combination, including physical and biomechanical factors, organisational and psychosocial factors, and individual factors. In general, all psychosocial and organisational factors (especially when combined with physical risks) that may lead to stress, fatigue, anxiety or other reactions, which in turn raise the risk of MSDs.

How can musculoskeletal injuries be prevented?

Preventing workloss due to MSDs needs a proactive approach. This can be achieved by:

Improved Work Techniques – Figure out the best way to complete a job by keeping the goal of decreasing the risk factors in mind. For example, be sure to utilise helpful equipment such as carts, forklifts and platforms in order to prevent injury.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – PPE is designed specifically to reduce the risk of injury. Wearing shoulder and knee pads can really make a difference when working for hours at a job site.

Training – ¬†Workers must learn about the risk factors of MSD’s and how to make ergonomic changes in order to prevent them and the correct training is always at the forefront for preventive measures. Manual handling courses provides learners with invaluable knowledge of the importance of safe manual handling, offering understanding of risk assessments for manual handling and guidance on appropriate control measures.

Financial implications

Sickness absence cost UK businesses financially – with MSDs problems being a prime contributor to this alongside stress and other mental health issues. Small and medium sized firms (SMEs) can be disproportionately affected through the loss of key staff for any period of time because of MSK ill-health, so helping employees to stay fit and well, or to return to work after illness is especially important.

MSDs are preventable and manageable. For further information on managing musculoskeletal health in the workplace, manual handling training or any other health and safety issue please contact us here.


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