musculoskeletal disorders

Even though information and training on preventing chronic injuries is readily accessible nowadays, year after year we are still seeing a disconcerting rise in cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Although not life threatening, both episodic and chronic cases significantly reduce a person’s quality of life and currently affect a sizeable portion of the population. According to the HSE, the total number of work-related musculoskeletal disorder cases in 2014/15 was 553,000 and the number of new cases was 169,000.

Transportation and storage, health and social care, as well as agriculture  and construction industries have the highest rates of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, but less obvious industries such as cleaning and office work are also at risk. When organisations in these industries establish their Health and Safety policy, musculoskeletal disorder risks must be considered.

Cleaners are especially at risk when it comes to MSDs.

As the HSE highlights that cleaning work is demanding and labour-intensive. Tasks involving cleaning machinery and heavy manual work – e.g. mopping, wiping, hoovering, carrying bags of waste and moving furniture can lead to MSDs if not carried out ergonomically.

There are 6 ergonomic risk factors relating to cleaning:

Working in awkward postures

Twisting and leaning over a kitchen counter to wipe the surface or having to bend forward when mopping or hoovering.

Excessive force

Cleaning roles require a great deal of ‘elbow grease’ to thoroughly scrub and wipe surfaces, which places strain on joints and muscles.

Contact stress

Areas of the body may undergo stress when places against another surface, e.g. wrists, hands and arms against a countertop.

Manual handling

Part of a cleaner’s role may involve handling furniture, work equipment, rubbish bags, or boxes. If not carried out correctly, undue strain may be placed on limbs, joints, shoulders and the back.


Cleaning machinery may emit high levels of vibration, which when used often and for prolonged periods can lead to numbness in limbs, joints, shoulders and the back.

Repetitive movements

Scrubbing, mopping and hoovering requires strenuous, repetitive back and forth motions that are harmful to the body in excess and if not carried out ergonomically.

How are MSDs recognised ?

The evaluation of MSDs includes identifying workplace risks. Evaluation begins with a discussion of the person’s employment and requires a detailed description of all the processes involved in a typical workday. Consideration is given to the frequency, intensity, duration and regularity of each task performed at work.

How can we prevent MSDs?

Hazards are best eliminated at the source; this is a fundamental principle of occupational Health and Safety . In the case of MSDs, the prime source of hazard is the receptiveness of work. Other components of work such as the applied force, fixed body positions and the pace of work are also contributing factors. Therefore, the main effort to protect workers from MSDs should focus on avoiding repetitive patterns of work through job design which may include mechanisation , job rotation, job enlargement and enrichment or teamwork. Where elimination of the repetitive patterns of work is not possible or practical, prevention strategies involving workplace layout, tool and equipment design and work practises should be considered.

A well-designed job, supported by a well-designed workplace and proper tools allows the work to avoid unnecessary motion of the neck, shoulders and upper limbs.

Training should be provided for workers who are involved in jobs that include repetitive tasks. Safety Media provide a Manual Handling and DSE interactive course. These courses will enable your employees to recognise hazards and risks in the workplace and use effective techniques to lift and handle loads safely and comply with safe working practises. If you would like more information on these courses, please call us on +44(0)1745 535000 or email on











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