Work contributing to musculoskeletal conditions

Two-thirds (68%) of musculoskeletal (MSK) problem sufferers said their occupation has been a contributing factor to their condition, research by Willis Towers Watson has revealed

65% claimed their condition has been exacerbated by their job, while 33% said their employer was aware of their condition but had failed to provide adequate support.

Although MSK disorders are more prevalent among older workers, employees aged 18 to 24 were found to be more likely than any other generation to claim their current occupation had contributed to their condition.

87% of workers aged 18 to 24 with the condition said work was a factor, compared to 80% of 25- to 34-year-olds, 61% of 45- to 55-year-olds, and 58% of workers aged 55 and older.

According to a Labour Force Survey referenced in the research, the most common work-related contributor to a MSK condition is manual handling, with an estimated 224,000 people referencing this as a factor. As the second most common factor, an estimated 69,000 people said keyboard work or repetitive action contributes to their condition.

Mike Blake, director, health and benefits GB at Willis Towers Watson, said: “These findings should encourage employers to take more effective precautionary steps to manage the risks.”

For those working at a desk such ‘precautionary steps’ can be short hourly breaks to allow posture change, or mechanical aids like ergonomic keyboards. For manual handling a trolley or other equipment can be introduced to reduce physical strain. Some of the general recommendations made by Willis Towers Watson include health-related training and advice to help employees protect their wellbeing at work, and tools that facilitate communication with managers.

Though, Blake maintained, there has been a “gradual decline in the rate of self-reported work-related MSK disorders [...] an estimated 6.9 million working days are still being lost to MSK conditions.”

The survey, conducted by Willis Towers Watson, questioned 2,000 UK MSK suffers on their working life.