It’s time to speak up about Musculoskeletal Disorders

Many of my friends, family and work colleagues have had their lives affected by musculoskeletal disorders and after years of campaigning for change I am using my voice to help raise awareness of how easy it is to prevent MSDs and create the right conditions for people to live fulfilling lives at work and at home.

I want to help organisations understand the importance of putting people back at the heart of sustainability. Through-out my working life I have seen the impact which poor working conditions have on their workers.

I estimate that 90% of my network have suffered from back pain, upper limb disorders and repetitive strain injuries linked to what they do at work. How wasteful!

I’m fairly certain that the hazards and risks associated with MSDs are recognised across the world, and that there is a huge amount of information freely available like the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EUOSHA) conversation starters that can be used to reduce the risk.

So it can be difficult to start a conversation… a simple are you OK? Or how are you today? Sounds straightforward enough, but in my experience organisations don’t really understand the importance of sustainable working lives.

Tasks involving significant physical effort, repetitive movement and poor physical posture should be avoided. Where avoidance is not possible, risks must be assessed and control measures put in place that reduce the risk of MSDs. How easy does that sound? So if it’s that easy why are new workers across the world suffering?

The suffering is often not limited to muscle or joint pain. I have seen instances where both physical and mental wellbeing have been affected with a longstanding impact on individuals and their families. With an ageing and declining population in Europe and the wider world, there is a real need to ensure that work is ‘good’ for people and as a result, they have fulfilling lives.

Using your voice and having a conversation about MSDs brings company policy to life, an end to dusty folders, unopened reminder emails or unfinished on-line learning programmes.

There is also an opportunity to take what works in the office or factory home with you, the principles are the same wherever you are and getting manual handling right reduces the potential for a life changing injury.

I think it’s all about putting people back at the heart of sustainability, and recognising the value of human capital. It’s easy to explain that each of us has value, the skills, knowledge and experience we bring with us to work every day. Think about it, our wellbeing underpins organisational success… so having a conversation about MSDs can work for everyone.

That’s easy for me to say, but to make it easier for everyone there’s a range of EUOSHA/RoSPA free resources here to help…download them, use them, then share your experience with us…use your voice!

In closing, this year RoSPA’s annual October campaign (#OSHtober) will raise awareness of the dangers associated with moving and handling (specifically around MSDs) with a ‘back’ to basics overview covering best practice, legal compliance and improved health.

As part of this we’re giving away a free ‘Supporters pack’ which includes a wealth of free content. Not only that, when you sign-up to our ‘Supporters pack’ you’ll also be entered into our prize draw for either a free Manual Handling Trainers or Safer People Handling Trainers or Display Screen Equipment course worth up to £1000.* To enter this competition all you have to do is complete the online questionnaire here.

Dr Karen McDonnell, CFIOSH, Chartered FCIPD, MRSB, PIEMA, MSP
Head of RoSPA Scotland, RoSPA OHS Policy Adviser

*See website for terms and conditions.

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