Musculoskeletal injuries can significantly impact on the quality of life of workers and have flow-on effect into mental health.

Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries like sprains and strains that are associated with manual work tasks.

WorkSafe has established a team called Human Factors/Ergonomics to help increase our own capacity and capability in this area as well as those in businesses.

Common musculoskeletal disorders include sprains and strains to lower backs and upper and lower limbs, and nerve compressions like carpal tunnel syndrome.  

This includes discomfort, pain and injuries that may develop over time, as well as acute injuries from events like slips or stumbles.

These sorts of injuries are common to sedentary workers such as office workers and drivers, as well as to those in manual jobs such as construction and healthcare.

Musculoskeletal injuries can significantly impact on the quality of life of workers and have flow-on effect into mental health.

Commonly, musculoskeletal risks have been considered from a limited perspective – in offices, set the chair and monitors at the right height, get workers away from their desks periodically – but it’s much more than that.

It’s requires businesses and organisations to recognise each worker and each job are unique.

WorkSafe is looking to think broader and will be bringing businesses along with us as we consider how good work design can be utilized in New Zealand.

WorkSafe will be creating guidance for businesses and those who work to prevent musculoskeletal harm to help create and maintain good practice, as well as systems to monitor progress. WorkSafe recognises the need to be expeditious in creating and promoting these to businesses.

This will include knowing how to measure the biomechanical and physical risk factors of: awkward postures, high loads/forceful movements, task repetition, and vibration; and the impacts of psychosocial, work organisation, individual and environmental factors.