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Firms face prosecution for work-related musculoskeletal disorder

Martyn Weeks
freelancing

Businesses are being urged to offer ergonomic office chairs for their staff – as back, neck and muscle pain account for half of absences from work. Contributor Martyn Weeks, managing director – FRS.

Employers have a legal duty to take steps to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal pain in the workplace. And it could make a business more profitable too – as research shows the loss of productivity and sickness absence costs two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Martyn Weeks, managing director of health and safety consultancy FRS, said employers could face prosecution if they did not properly protect staff. He said: “If employers don’t carry out a risk assessment and, as a result, someone suffers a musculoskeletal disorder, then they could be at risk of a prosecution and a claim for compensation.”

Darren Moloney, founder and technical director at web marketing services firm All Things Web, recognises the benefits of orthopaedic office chairs after his old chair led to back ache.

Darren had been visited by his Health and Safety officer and was advised their current furniture would ‘kill their backs’ – as they did not allow for height and back adjustment.

The glider pilot and keen mountain walker then got in touch with Paul Randall of specialist furniture supplies Rainbow Zebra, who advised him on his options. He said: “I’d been sitting in a chair which would cut the circulation off in my leg, leading to back pain and a dull ache – as well as very significant pins and needles in my calf and foot.

“We’ve since replaced them with orthopaedic chairs to ensure everyone could sit as comfortably- and correctly – as possible. The mesh backs also help us stay cool in summer.”

Chiropractor Dr Thomasina Craster, of Abundant Life in Bath, said half of her patients needed treatment because of long office hours and that it is vital to have supportive chairs.

The former professional dancer, who is based at the Bath Practice, said: “Good lumbar support in the office – and indeed in the car for commuters – can rule out sprain and strain injuries, which are acquired over time. “Once you over stretch an elastic band too many times it won’t bounce back and the same with our ligaments and tendons.

“Having your work station ergonomically set up to 90 degree angles, with lumbar support for the back, is a good start.” She advises against using laptops in non-workstations, such as on the bed, settee or lap, and recommends people walk around or change position every couple of hours.

She said: “Good posture also helps with concentration and helps people not to tire so easily – so they are more productive in the workplace.” Paul Randall, of specialist furniture supplies Rainbow Zebra, added: “Firms recognise that by investing in chairs which offer support and aid good posture, they are investing in their staff.”


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