Individual differences

All individuals are different and some people may be more likely to develop musculoskeletal problems. Individual differences also make some people more reluctant to report musculoskeletal problems. Some factors may increase the risk of developing symptoms and these should be considered when designing a management programme. These factors include:

  • difference in competence or skills;
  • new employees may need time to acquire the necessary work skills;
  • workers of varying body sizes, ie height, reach etc. This can lead to adopting poor postures when lifting or lowering objects;
  • vulnerable groups, eg older workers and new or expectant mothers;
  • health status and disability;
  • individual attitudes or characteristics that may affect compliance with safe working practices or reporting of symptoms.

What can I do to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury when considering the individual?

All tasks should be designed so that they can be undertaken without the risk of musculoskeletal injury. There is no valid scientific screening test, which can predict the future development of musculoskeletal problems in particular individuals. Job placement should take account of the risk assessment, job requirements and the possible individual differences outlined in the previous section.

In particular, consider the needs of new employees, particularly young workers, and those returning to work from a holiday, sickness or injury. All these may need to start or resume work at a slower rate than the existing 'workforce', followed by a gradual increase in pace. Regulation 12 in the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 details requirements concerning new employees. Introducing newcomers at a slower pace will help them to develop good working practices and take in the training more effectively before they have to concentrate on working at a normal rate.

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Updated 2021-12-14