Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common physical work- related problems in the UK and in particular back pain, neck and shoulder pain and upper/lower limb disorders.
The main causes of MSD’s in the workplace are: repetitive work, poor posture, excessive force, lifting and carrying heavy loads, strenuous pushingand pulling,and standing and sitting for long periods.
Employers have a key role in the management and treatment of MSD’s by setting up an ergonomic programme encouraging employees to report problems immediately to ensure early intervention; providing access to occupational health services, and organising appropriate adjustments and support to assist in retention and rehabilitation of employees.
Employees can help in the prevention of MSD@s by leading an active and healthy lifestyle, adopting good posture, taking breaks, using the correct lifting techniques and reporting any problems they experience.
- 1 in 5 will not return to work after just 4 weeks of absence ( Health at Work 2011)
- After being off work for 6 months only 1 in 5 return to work ( NICE 2009)
- After 2yrs+ on IB a person is more likely to die or retire than to return to work again ! (NICE 2009) & (HM Government 2005b)
- The problem of workers being on the job, but because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning, can cut individual productivity by one third or more.’ Paul Kemp , 2004
- In one year it is estimated that 572’000 people suffered from MSD’s caused or made worse by work.
- An estimated 9.3million working days are lost through work-related musculoskeletal disorders
- On average each person suffering from a work related musculoskeletal disorder took an estimated 16.3 days of work
WHAT CAN AN EMPLOYER DO
- Encourage employees not to hide health conditions, have open and honest lines of communication, help them overcome their ‘ fear’ that disclosure/ asking for help in work may ultimately = job loss
- Remember no two people with the same condition are the same ,pain levels fluctuate, as do the personality characteristics, beliefs, attitudes and values of each employee
- Discuss simple‘ adjustments’ before situations deteriorate; e.g. ‘movement breaks’, flexible hours, adjusted duties for a short period, consider ergonomic assessment, advice, support and equipment via the Access to Work Programme.
- Provide information to employees relating to pain management
- Be mindful of work life balance and life stressors and support that’s available for help
Regular reviews with employee are essential, chronic pain doesn’t disappear, be aware of the issue of presenteeism ,your employee will sustain work longer and perform better with your support
Ensure good information is available on health conditions – via national self-help websites;
Condition specific websites e.g.
- www.hse.gov.uk/msd/backpain www.macmillan.org.uk
Condition Management Programme (CMP)
CMP is a work-focused, health rehabilitation programme which helps people better understand and manage their conditions. Delivered by health care professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Mental Healt hNurses, it does not provide treatment but offers information, advice and support on an individual and/or group basis. CMP is available to DEL clients in receipt of ESA and jobseekers allowance.
For more information check out http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/condition-management-programme
Health at Work – An Independent Review of Sickness Absence, Black & Frost, 2011
Working for a Healthier Tomorrow – Black, 2008
NICE Guidelines 19, Managing Long Term Sickness Absence and Incapacity for Work www.nice.org.uk/ph19 (July 2008)
No-one written off, Reforming Welfare to reward responsibility www.dwp.gov.uk Boorman (August 2009)
Health and Wellbeing at Work in the UK www.dh.gov.uk/publications