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Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect millions of workers and cost employers billions of euros throughout Europe, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. They are recognised as being a major cause of sickness absence and disability.

MSDs are conditions that can affect the joints, bones and muscles. MSD problems commonly reported in the workplace include lower back pain, neck pain and upper limb pain (often referred to as repetitive strain injuries).

Dr Pamela Gellatly is CEO of healthcare rm, a provider of integrated health management at both an organisational and individual level. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Chester on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace.

On Wednesday, December 12, as part of the Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition’s Research Seminar Series, she will be delivering her research reflecting on the factors that are likely to cause MSDs in the workplace.

Dr Gellatly said: “I’m looking to change the way in which MSDs in the workplace are considered, from a safety, health and wellbeing perspective. All too often the focus in reducing the risk of MSDs is from an organisational perspective and rarely are the human or personal risk factors considered. I was interested in whether public health issues, such as excess weight and inactivity, were relevant to the incidence of MSDs and found higher levels of inactivity combined with excess weight in the population studied. In addition, factors such as negative attitudes and beliefs – for example, the idea that ‘work causes me harm’ and other poor lifestyle factors such as smoking and excess alcohol, were found to be relevant risks.

“To address such issues, a company’s money can be better spent on improving health and wellbeing, (eg specific conditioning for purpose), rather than simply relying on ergonomic solutions that may have an unintended consequence of contributing to avoidance strategies and physical deterioration. For example, I was recently advising a business which was looking at spending millions changing the racking in its vehicles, which would definitely reduce some risk but not provide the return on investment. Instead, I advised them to spend the money on improving some aspects of the racking, but with a specific focus on improving fitness for engineers in relation to the specific tasks they need to undertake. This should ultimately give the company a better, and longer term, return whilst also supporting employees to improve their wellbeing and quality of life.”

‘The underlying causes and contributory risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders’ seminar takes place on Wednesday, December 12. It begins at 6pm in the Beswick 017 lecture theatre at the Parkgate Road Campus and is expected to last approximately 50 minutes. Refreshments will be provided from 5.45pm. Please email a.morgan@chester.ac.uk to book a free place.

 

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