Health and safety representative

Most common injury at work - Musculoskeletal injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the most common causes of injury at work. In 2019 – 20, over half of all serious workers’ compensation claims were for traumatic injuries of the joints, ligaments, muscles or tendons (38%), or for other musculoskeletal conditions (18%).

Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs are an injury or disease of the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is made up of muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues. 

MSD may include: 

  • sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments and tendons. 
  • back injuries.
  • joint and bone injuries or degeneration. 
  • nerve injuries or compression (for example carpal tunnel syndrome). 
  • muscular and vascular disorders as a result of hand-arm vibration. 
  • soft tissue injuries such as hernias. 
  • chronic pain (pain that lasts longer than three months). 
  • acute pain (pain that lasts less than three months). 

MSD can happen: 

  • slowly, through gradual wear and tear from repetitive or continuous movements, including static body positions 
  • suddenly, through strenuous activity or unexpected movements – for example, handling a load that shifts position.
  • Some manual tasks can stress the body and lead to MSD. Hazardous manual tasks are tasks that require a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing that involves one or more of the following: 
  • repetitive movement
  • repetitive or sustained force 
  • high or sudden force 
  • sustained or awkward postures 
  • exposure to vibration. 

This could include tasks like restraining live animals or sorting objects on a conveyor belt. The workplace vibration guidance material has more information on managing vibration and its risks. 

Hazards can come from: 

  • work tasks and how they’re performed 
  • work design and management 
  • the tools, equipment and objects handled 
  • physical work environment.

You should do a risk assessment for all manual tasks you think may be hazardous.

Your risk assessment of manual tasks will identify: 

  • postures, movements and forces that pose a risk 
  • when they may become dangerous 
  • why they’re happening 
  • ways to eliminate or minimise the risk.

The links below should be able to assist you in Identifying any Hazardous Manual Task in your work area and the best and suitable ways of either eliminating or minimising them.

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