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Musculoskeletal Problems in the Workplace 

(including Back Pain)


Musculoskeletal symptoms constitute the largest category of self reported ill-health in the UK caused or aggravated by work in Britain. 

Data on medically reported incidence of work-related musculoskeletal ill health in the UK is collected from occupational physicians (OPRA), GPs (THOR-GP) and rheumatologists (MOSS) participating in the THOR network.

Even in industry such as the chemical industry, where there may be specific concerns about the chemical exposures which may be irritant, may cause sensitisation or may be toxic in other ways, it is still usually the case that musculo-skeletal work related problems are more frequent. 

It has taken hundreds of thousands of years for man to evolve into the being that he is - with an upright posture, weight bearing on only two legs and with hands which can perform many tasks that cannot be performed by the hands of other mammals. Nevertheless the range of tasks that have recently been devised for human hands, and the range of postures that man often is expected to adopt, may go way beyond what evolution could keep up with even if natural selection were still in play. However we live in a society which aims for equity of access to work, health and safety at work and other ethical concepts, not merely "survival of the fittest". 

It therefore follows that in relation to musculo-skeletal work related ill health the principle effort must be directed at identifying the hazards and assessing the risks, and then taking steps to adapt the work place environment and work practices so as to reduce the risk and not simply to expect that human beings should be able to cope nor to place undue reliance on teaching and training, without the appropriate adaptation of the work place. 



Your experience:

Consider situations that you have experienced or that are known to you, and in which workers have complained of pain in the muscles, joints or elsewhere in the musculoskeletal system. 

What do you believe have been the contributing factors? 

Some headings are provided to help you (but these are not intended as exhaustive but simply as a guide to start you off); 

  • Posture (of back, neck, arms etc)
  • Range of movements needed to undertake task
  • Repetitive nature of task
  • Absence of adequate breaks
  • Weight of load
  • Awkwardness of load
How would you rate the risk to health: 
  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
What steps would you recommend / have recommended to reduce the risk?

Guidance as to the audit of process of occupational health consultations for back pain is presented on a separate page.