Seven simple steps to reduce work-related back pain

Seven simple steps to reduce work-related back pain

Neck pain, back pain, tendonitis, osteoarthritis … Most of your workforce has probably suffered from one of these afflictions, or will do in the future. 

Together with a host of other ailments, these are known as musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. They affect mechanisms in the body such as the joints, muscles, and tendons and can be caused or exacerbated by work and/or the effects of the work environment. Factors contributing to these disorders may include manual handling of heavy loads, unfavourable body posture, monotonous/repetitive tasks, and high job demands. 

The emphasis here is on “can”: these conditions are preventable. Yet MSDs remain one of the most frequent causes of disability, sick leave, and early retirement, and together are rated as the most common work-related health problem in Europe.

Here are seven simple steps from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) to help you protect your workforce:

  1. Risk assessment – this health and safety favourite is your best way to predict the various factors that can lead to MSDs. Any assessment should consider task, individual, load, work environment, and other relevant factors.
  2. Control the risk – MSDs can be prevented in much the same way as other risks. Use the findings of your risk assessment to put controls in place. This doesn’t have to be a costly or major change and may include modifying equipment or making alterations to work practices.
  3. Take a break – promote a healthy work-life balance and ensure that rest breaks are included. These will enhance the body’s recovery and prevent fatigue.
  4. Create good ergonomics – balance the requirements of the job and the capacity of the employee. This can be done by adapting tasks to specific people through design of the work or developing staff member capacity through training and workplace adjustments. 
  5. Choose the best way to do a job – the way in which a worker performs a task can affect MSDs. For example, when lifting a load the centre of gravity should be close to the body. So, find better ways to perform a task and inform workers of how to implement these changes. Even small improvements will reduce the risks of MSDs. 
  6. Prevention is better than cure – avoiding accidents in the workplace that can cause MSDs as well as other injuries should be front and centre for every organisation.
  7. Report it – it’s important that organisations have processes in place for workers to report MSD issues. The sooner issues are identified, the easier it is for your organisation to prevent them from developing into something more serious.

Of course, MSDs may also be related to what workers do in their personal lives, which contributes to any issues at work. This is where awareness training comes in: having healthy workers who are aware of all MSD hazards and risks and are healthier outside of work will always be a benefit to the organisation.

Given the prevalence of MSDs, making prevention and early intervention measures part of your everyday health and safety management really does make good business sense.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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