As part of an ongoing programme of key workplace interventions, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will start focusing on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) during their visits. MSDs are conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system and can be present in the tendons, joints, muscles and nerves of the back and limbs. Symptoms in those affected can range from mild and periodic to severe, chronic and debilitating. Read on to learn how to prevent your workers suffering from MSDs.
HSE to Focus on Musculoskeletal Disorders
Health and safety legislation requires employers to take proactive steps to remove or reduce risk of injury to employees in relation to the use of display screen equipment (DSE) and manual handling activities. But aside from the legal responsibilities, there are good business reasons for employers to address MSDs in their workplace.
Some of the main causes of MSDs include: vibration, poor posture, heavy lifting, repetitive tasks, poorly designed work areas, incorrect lifting techniques and pulling or pushing heavy loads. Studies have indicated that factors such as workload, lack of rest breaks and reduced recovery time have an impact on MSDs. So how should you manage MSDs in your workplace?
8 Top Tips for Preventing MSDs in Your Workplace
- Adopt an ergonomic approach which involves the workforce and safety representatives.
- Ensure management and workers have an understanding of the issues and are committed to action on prevention. This commitment may be expressed through strong leadership and having appropriate systems of work in place. You should thus develop a local policy on prevention and management of MSDs and ensure that everyone is clear about their responsibilities.
- Managers and workers need to be competent in order to prevent MSDs. The HSE recommends that prevention of MSDs should be an integral part of health and safety training, with emphasis on risk factors and how these may be avoided.
- Carry out a risk assessment in respect of MSDs, ensuring that all parties are involved in the process and that everyone is clear about their responsibilities in the risk control process.
- Provide managers and workers with training and information on MSDs so they can assist in the identification of the early warning signs. Training should also include safe working methods, correct operation and use of equipment and the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
- Following confirmation of an MSD, prompt action should be taken to review the risk assessment and to verify that existing control measures are effective. You must investigate work-related injuries as appropriate.
- Carry out regular checks to ensure the risk control measures are effective. Where monitoring uncovers deficiencies within the risk management programme, a formal review of performance should be carried out.
- Plan work so that there are breaks or changes in activity, especially where an employee works exclusively at a computer.
Failing to identify and manage musculoskeletal risks in your workplace may lead to enforcement action. Make sure you protect the health of your workers.