Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) are costing UK businesses £7.4 billion a year through absenteeism and an estimated £15 billion a year in presenteeism – people at work, but working less productively due to a MSD (there but not fully there) is an issue. It affects all ages, but we also now have an ageing workforce and higher retirement age.

More than ever it is necessary to consider the Ergonomics of the tasks for prevention and reduction of risks, but also to review the physical capabilities of the worker and the need for reasonable adjustments to help!

Individuals require an in depth personalised assessment to review their medical situation, what symptoms they experience, what activities they can do and what activities and postures are difficult. The assessor also needs to have a good understanding of what the job role involves, from the employer and the individual themselves, such as how many minutes per day the individual has to be in different postures, perform specific tasks, such as standing and walking, manual handling and what weights they have to handle from different heights and locations.

A Functional Capacity Evaluation can help to achieve this, for physically active work roles, including where manual handling may be one of the tasks performed. See: https://healthywork.org.uk/occupational-health-services/functional-capacity-assessment/

Health & Wellbeing at work For sedentary workers, an Ergonomic Workstation Assessment is required, to ensure their seating and posture is suitable for their health needs. See: https://healthywork.org.uk/occupational-health-services/ergonomic-assessment/

This year, at the Health and Wellbeing @ Work Conference, Business In the Community launched a Musculoskeletal Health Toolkit, for employers at the event. See: http://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/all-resources/toolkits/musculoskeletal-health-toolkit-employers

One point to remember is that there needs to be both a business case and a moral case, when considering supporting individuals’ wellbeing. You cannot just consider the business case! Employers have a Duty of Care to their employees. Also the business case is there to look after the individual workers too, as this can reduce sickness absence costs, reduce recruitment costs and interview time and thus less training of new employee costs. It also can reduce strain on the rest of the team.

So remember to have open conversations with individuals, and flexibility in the working pattern to allow them to attend appointments, as this will all help with the business case in the end. If they are better supported in their health and wellbeing needs, they will be happier and perform better!

Remember: A physical health issue, can also have a mental health impact and the other way around!

The buzzwords at the conference were TRAINING & SUPPORT, especially management training so they feel confident in supporting the health needs of their team.

Here at Healthywork, Alison Biggs, registered Occupational Therapist, offers Occupational Health Assessments, including Ergonomic Assessment, and a Functional Capacity Evaluation in order to assess the employee’s ability to perform their work role and suggest reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 which can help. Find out more about these and other services on offer at: https://healthywork.org.uk/occupational-health-services/

Alison Biggs

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