THE LATEST Labour Force Survey, which was recently published by the Office of National Statistics, showsmusculoskeletal problems now account for more than a quarter of all sick days even though the majority are avoidable according to leading workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.
In 2011, 131 million working days were lost to sickness which is actually 4% lower than the previous year. This fall is part of an overall downward trend since 2003 when the number of days lost stood at 178 million. This means the average number of days lost per worker is now down to 4.5 a year which compares to a recent peak of 7.2 days in 1995.
The figures also reveal that last year 34.4 million days were lost due to musculoskeletal problems but Lee Wright, Marketing Director of Slingsby which supplies 35,000 products across all industries including an extensive range of manual handling products, believes many of these can be prevented.
He explains: “These figures show the amount of sick leave workers are taking is falling rapidly which is good news for employers but hopefully it’s not because people feel obliged to go to work even when they are ill. However the number of days being lost to musculoskeletal disorders is still a major concern, especially because these problems often arise at work even though most are easily avoidable.”
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992, employers have a duty to ensure there are effective arrangements in place to plan, organise, control, monitor and review preventative and protective measures against significant risks. In addition The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require risks from manual handling to be eliminated or minimised wherever possible.
Lee continues: “In any workplace where manual handling tasks are performed a risk assessment should be carried out. Firstly any past injuries should be considered before focussing on all tasks that include heavy objects, awkward loads, strenuous pulling or pushing, overreaching, awkward postures, lifting above shoulder height and carrying long distances.
“You should assess these activities in detail to determine what factors lead to the risk and consider all potential injuries. Then look at what safeguards could be introduced for each issue. Often this will include introducing mechanical solutions such as trolleys, powered trucks or pneumatic systems. Even if a fully mechanical solution is not feasible there are all types of products available to assist with manual handling such as lifting tables or work positioners that are easily manoeuvrable and can support various weights at different heights.
“If introducing equipment is completely impractical it may be possible to reduce the weight of the load, even if it means a greater frequency of lifts – generally it is better to lift two, 25kg weights separately rather than one, 50kg load.
“Relevant training is also hugely beneficial to educate employees about the types of injuries that can arise and how these can be avoided by focussing on posture, lifting techniques and methods of carrying.”