Managing Musculoskeletal Disorders at Work – Part Two

Last time I posted Part One of how to manage MSDs in the workplace . Both Part One and Part Two are written thanks to Jenny Collis of Fit & Able Workplace, who kindly gave a presentation on the subject at my last Workshop.

This blog now discusses how to assess and correct any issues that staff may be experiencing. Specifically, it covers:

  • Clarifying what actions can be taken in-house by Health & Safety trained staff, with tips and advice on simple solutions for both the workplace and remote working situations
  • More information on when external expert help is required

Carrying out regular assessments helps both your employees and you to pick up on issues quickly, which helps prevent more long-term problems that can then lead to sickness absence. Ideally, these assessments should take place every six months, and certainly no less frequently than annually.

In terms of office-based staff, the workstation tends to be a relatively easy fix for musculoskeletal problems that may be caused by repetitive movements on the keyboard or mouse, for instance. Or if their posture doesn’t appear to be correct whilst sitting at their computer.

Many businesses these days provide solutions such as height-adjustable laptop stands to allow the employee to stand up for periods of time, allowing the body to stretch more. These solutions may be recommended by occupational health physiotherapists carrying out an ergonomic workplace assessment; you can request these assessments if you feel that an employee needs that specialist help.

Workstation Adjustments

When your trained staff are carrying out workstation assessments, these are some of the points they will need to consider and should be able to rectify themselves when they’ve had the correct DSE training:

  • Chair – does the employee know how to operate it? Ensure that the chair is set up correctly so that their knees are slightly lower than their hips and the back is supported. Is the chair at the correct height for the desk?
  • Foot rest – is one required? It may be necessary for shorter people to help keep their legs and hips in a comfortable position.
  • Desk – check that the layout is correct and that the height is suitable. How cluttered is it? The immediate working area should be as clear as possible.
  • Screen(s) – are they at the correct height and distance, and positioned according to percentage use? Do they need a monitor riser?
  • Input devices – make sure that the keyboard is 10 cm from the desk edge with the mouse alongside.
  • Telephone – does your employee use the telephone a lot? If so, ensure that a headset is provided to keep both hands free for note taking, and to prevent putting strain on elbows, neck and shoulders.
  • Paperwork – if your employee does a lot of typing, a document holder will ensure that they’re not straining their neck or shoulders by bending over the desk too much. Documents that are closer to eye-level are much better to work from.

Remote and Home Workers

It’s equally important to regularly assess remote and home workers, as well as employees who are on the road a lot. Things to consider include:

  • Laptop/mobile devices – check whether your employee needs accessory laptop equipment. For instance, an appropriate travel bag on wheels to accommodate their devices and paperwork as they travel from site to site.
  • Home Workers – how are they set up at home? Do they have appropriate equipment, including an adequate desk and chair?
  • Car use – if your employees have a long commute, or are on the road a lot with appointments, check that their driving position is correct. Proper ergonomic cushions may help with any back or hip issues.

When carrying out the assessments, if you find that there are problems that may need specialist equipment it would be advisable to seek external specialist advice before making any purchases; this could both save you money in the long term and save making costly mistakes. Specialist ergonomic equipment suppliers should provide free ergonomic assessments.

Ergonomic Workplace Assessments (EWA)

In Part One, I set out what you can expect when you have an EWA in the workplace. However, these assessments are not restricted to your office-based staff; they can also be provided for home workers. Most good occupational health physiotherapists also offer a range of other assessments, such as ergonomic vehicle assessments and manual worker assessments.

Fit & Able Workplace provide all of those services as well as health and wellbeing days, DSE training for your designated H&S staff, and they also implement DSE assessment programmes for your workplace. Their UK wide network of assessors will provide a uniform service nationally, ensuring that all your sites are treated equally.

If you have any further queries on MSDs and helping your staff to work comfortably and safely, or indeed any other staff issues, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.