Aches, pains and strains or musculoskeletal disorders

Work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), whether they occur because of standing or sitting for too long, carrying/lifting/doing too much or too often, usually are caused by a failure to adapt work to the needs of the worker.

They can be caused by pushing, pulling and lifting heavy loads, reaching, twisting and squeezing, or hammering and pounding (through for example typing).

Fact and figures

According to the Health and Safety Executive MSDs are the second leading cause of work related ill health, affecting 507,000 workers, and accounting for 8.9 million working days lost, each year.

How does the issue affect our members?

Nearly all UNISON members could be affected by MSDs in some way, whether it is porters, care workers or nursing lifting and moving heavy loads, cleaners twisting and reaching, or office workers suffering repetitive strain injury (RSI) through poorly designed work stations.

What is UNISON calling for?

We are calling for employers to comply with their legal obligations through robust risk assessments and to working in partnership with UNISON’s Safety Reps to avoid or minimise the hazards.

We are also calling for the Health and Safety Executive  to carry out pro-active and regular inspections to ensure employers comply with their legal obligations.

What we have done

We have produced guides and leaflets for both Safety Reps and members to support them in understanding what:

  • Employers must and can do to eliminate/manage MSDs;
  • Workers can do keep themselves and their colleagues safe;
  • Branches can do to support their members and campaign for safer working conditions.

See our advice pages if you are experiencing an MSD as a result of work