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Musculoskeletal Disorders – How to Keep Britain’s Backbone in Good Health During the Pandemic

The Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry is being pushed to its limits, with many manufacturers and suppliers reporting demand at all-time highs as a consequence of COVID-19 Paul Shawcross, clinical lead in occupational health services at Connect Health, provides advice on measures that can be introduced to keep teams in good musculoskeletal health while they’re busy supplying the nation.

While NHS staff are being applauded and supermarket workers being thanked in person for their efforts, those behind the scenes – the food packers and warehouse operatives which account for around 400,000 employees in the UK – are working tirelessly to make sure supermarket shelves are kept well stocked.

These unsung heroes are prone to musculoskeletal conditions – back, joint and upper limb pain, caused by long periods of standing and repetitive movement.

Before, during and after their shifts, staff should be encouraged to move in a different way to how they have been during their working hours. If they have been static for long periods or continually leaning across a conveyor belt, something as simple as a few stretches or a walk around the block will help loosen off the muscles.

Encouraging more energetic and structured exercise when staff get home will also reap huge benefits and there are plenty of free training resources to tap into, such as the NHS’ fitness studio and Sport England’s ‘Stay in, work out’, perfect for those who are short of time and miss getting to the gym.

Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increase happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for mental and physical health along with productivity.

For employees who have particularly repetitive roles, which leads to pressure on key areas of their body, the introduction of rotation and micro breaks are particularly effective. This means rotating workers onto other lines to reduce repetition and opting for more breaks throughout the day, which are shorter versus longer and less frequent.

It is well known that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the second leading cause of working days lost in the United Kingdom, accounting for 22% of sickness absence and costing the nation an estimated £7bn a year. So, at this time of national emergency, it has never been more important to keep staff in the best possible health.