Manual handling and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

Musculosketal disorders (MSDs) are one of the biggest causes of injuries in textiles.

How do you know if you have a problem?

Injury and health problems show up in different ways, such as:

  • injury to backs and limbs
  • aches and pains
  • poor product quality
  • high material waste
  • low output
  • frequent worker complaints and rest stops
  • do-it-yourself improvements to workstations and tools (eg seat padding)
  • workers wearing bandages, splints, rub-ons, copper bracelets or magnets

If you have a problem, it will be costing you money from sickness absence, high staff turnover, retraining and loss of production.  Compensation cases are quite common and problems may affect your insurance premiums.

What you can do to manage the risk

A major cause of MSDs is poor manual handling.  This can happen when people are inexperienced or untrained and they fail to plan a task properly.

Other problems relate to the risk assessments carried out on such tasks, particular tasks that may not seen onerous but are either repeated regularly or involve twisting and turning into unusual or awkward postures.

To help employers assess tasks properly, HSE has produced a series of tools.

Also, take a look at the information and guidance given on the following web pages:

Case studies

A presser needed physiotherapy and steroid injections to alleviate severe pain in her shoulder and arm brought on by repetitive vertical steaming of garments.  The job involved lifting the iron repeatedly above shoulder height – the job was redesigned so that it could be done without lifting the iron so high.

A left-handed sewing machinist, attaching buttons on a machine designed for right-handed people, developed back and neck problems as a result of the awkward posture she had to adopt.  After some thought and adjustment of the system of work, the machinist was able to sit comfortably at the machine.

A warehouse worker suffered a back injury after manually handling an awkward roll of fabric weighing around 28 kg.  Afterwards, the employer reduced the weight of rolls to 25 kg, provided training on lifting and introduced new instructions on how to handle loose rolls.

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Updated 2024-02-09