Health & Safety, An Introduction to

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Do you suffer from sprains, strains and pains?

Manual handling is transporting or supporting loads by hand or using bodily force. Many people hurt their back, arms, hands or feet lifting everyday loads, not just then the load is too heavy. More than a third of all over-three-day injuries reported each year to HSE and to local authorities are the result of manual handling. These can result in those injured taking an average of 11 working days off each year.

‘Upper limbs’ refers to the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers. Upper limb disorders (sometimes called repetitive strain injury (RSI)) can happen in almost any workplace where people do repetitive, or forceful manual activities in awkward postures, for prolonged periods of time. These can cause muscular aches and pains, which may initially be temporary, but if such work is not properly managed, and the early symptoms are not recognised and treated, can progress to a chronic and disabling disorder. Cumulative damage can build up over time causing pain and discomfort in people’s backs, arms, hands and legs. Most cases can be avoided by providing suitable lifting equiment that is regularly maintained, together with relevant training on both manual handling and using the equipment safely (see “Work equipment and machinery“)

Does this concern me?

Does your work include strenuous lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching or repetitive handling?

Do you have repetitive finger, hand or arm movements which are frequent, forceful or awkward?

Does your work involve twisting, squeezing, hammering or pounding?

What law applies?

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

How and where you can get more help

‘Aching arms (or RSI) in small businesses : Is ill health due to upper limb disorders a problem in your workplace?’ INDG171 (rev1) FREE (available in packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 2600 8 £5.00)

‘Upper limb disorders in the workplace’ HSG60 ISBN 0 7176 1978 8 £9.50

‘Getting to grips with manual handling – a short guide for employers’ INDG143 (rev1) (available in packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1754 8 £5.00)

You can order any of these titles through HSE Books.

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