Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and work

Photo by JD'na via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by JD’na via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

A survey carried out as part of the Fit for Work Europe research programme (‘Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work’) has evaluated the effects of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on over 1,500 people living in six European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK).

MSDs (i.e. pain in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work. According to the IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) an estimated 439,000 workers in Great Britain suffered from musculoskeletal disorders during 2011/12 that were caused or made worse by their current or past work, and, on average, each person suffering took an estimated 17 days of sickness absence.

Some headline results from the research carried out by the Fit for Work Europe Coalition include that:

  • almost 40% of respondents said that their MSD has had an impact on their earnings;
  • nearly 55% of respondents with severe MSDs said that their condition prevented them from working or accessing education;
  • almost 93% said that they sometimes go to work despite feeling unwell due to their condition;
  • more than 65% said that the condition had an impact on their decision to retire early.

On the basis of these results, The Work Foundation, an independent and international authority on work and its future, which seeks to influence policy and practice for the benefit of society, has warned that a focus on the employment outcomes for sufferers of MSDs must become a top priority. Employers, who have a legal responsibility to look after the health of their staff, can seek information from the Health for Work Adviceline website and blog.

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