Musculoskeletal Disorders and the factors that cause them

MSDs, also known as Musculoskeletal Disorders are one the most common types of work-related injury in Australia, with construction accounting for 14% percent of all serious workers’ compensation claims in 2021-2022.

Musculoskeletal pain refers to pain felt in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, or nerves, and you can feel this pain in just one area of the body or throughout your whole body. The pain can range from mild, to severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day life. 

There are numerous risk factors to address: Time pressure, ageing workforce, awkward postures for a start. We need to change mindsets that pain and injury are unavoidable and make our younger workforce understand the cumulative nature of these problems- something that most ‘broken´ builders will know very well 

It is well known that there are a range of factors that contribute to MSDs. It’s not just about a single factor such as the lifting technique (although for industries such as scaffolding and roofing, lifting and handling techniques are an important factor).

The research firmly points to five groups of factors we need to tackle when addressing MSDs in construction as shown in the diagram below these are work organisation, environmental, individual, psychological, biomechanical and physical factors:

Infographic of causes of discomfort, pain and injury

It may not surprise you that physical factors often take most of the blame and focus as their connection is easy to understand, measure and observe. There are also proven strategies to overcome physical factors such as machinery, equipment and task modifications. Combining the other factors into your approach is where the construction industry will get the most benefit. Understanding how these factors can combine and influence each other to cause problems will be crucial.

 The most common solutions to dealing with MSD are:

  • Micropauses and position changes
  • Task rotation
  • Stretch warm-up and cool down
  • Cardio and strength fitness / flexibility
  • Stress management
  • Back care
  • Communication
  • Work planning
  • Early reporting

We dive deeper into what treatment might look like and prevention tips, and the unseen costs associated with MSD in the blogs below: 

Musculoskeletal – What treatments look like and prevention tips 

Musculoskeletal: The hidden costs to workers lives and businesses.

5 things you can do to tackle musculoskeletal problems (MSDs) in your business

SafeWork NSW and WorkSafe Queensland offer a simple program called PErforM, which helps workplaces effectively manage hazardous manual tasks and reduce musculoskeletal disorders. You can contact for further details.