Latest statistics on musculoskeletal disorders

A report showing the latest statistics on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) has been produced by the HSE. What are the findings and how could this be affecting your business?

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries, pain and irritations within joints, tendons, discs and ligaments. There are several symptoms associated with MSDs including aching muscles, pins and needles, swelling, and most commonly, persistent pain in the area of the body which has been injured. These symptoms can be very painful, and if not dealt with hinder a worker’s mobility for a long period of time.

How the HSE sourced its information

The report, Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WRMSDs) Statistics, Great Britain 2016 has been compiled through analysis of two sources of information (see The next step ). Firstly, the Labour Force Survey 2016 , which is an annual survey covering 38,000 households across Great Britain. Secondly, there was a targeted survey of a group of occupationally trained general practitioners.

Who’s at risk?

Results from the Labour Force Survey 2016 showed that workers at most risk of work-related MSDs were those employed in construction, transport, agriculture, forestry, fishing, storage, healthcare and social care.

Note. Whilst all employers have a legal duty to control the risks of injury which occur through manual handling and poor ergonomics, as shown, those in the sectors listed have the most to gain through effective action in these risk areas.

Working days and money lost

The HSE’s data reveals that businesses are losing millions of pounds each year due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. It is estimated that 8.8 million working days were lost in 2015/16. Relative to other causes of sickness absence, MSDs tend to cause significant periods of lost time: the average is 16 days per case. MSDs cause 34% of all lost time due to work-related illness.

Based on the statutory sick pay amount of £17.69 per day the cost of the average incident is just under £300. But this doesn’t take into account the additional costs to businesses such as providing temporary cover, contractual sick pay, management and investigation time, civil claims, etc.

Keeping your workforce safe

Manual handling training gives staff the knowledge to prevent injury, by helping them to understand, for example, how their spine works best and what is likely to cause damage.

Note. Trained staff should also be able to assess a load for themselves before lifting, and understand the precautions including correct lifting techniques. Training is most effective if it’s practical and hands-on. Tip. To get the best from any training, managers and supervisors must monitor and reinforce the correct methods of work, e.g. making use of trolleys and lifting equipment, breaking down the load to manageable sections and safe manual handling techniques.

The statistics show that businesses are losing millions of pounds each year due to MSDs, with these injuries accounting for a third of time lost due to work-related causes. Provide training for staff so that they understand the precautions needed to avoid injury. After training, supervisors should actively reinforce good practice.

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