How Common Are Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Construction Industry?
A musculoskeletal disorder affects the muscles, joints, tendons or spinal discs. One such musculoskeletal problem is a cumulative back disorder.
This is where repetitive and/or heavy manual handling activities are carried out and the cumulative effect is that the individual develops a back condition, or makes a pre-existing back condition worse.
The construction industry has a very high rate of musculoskeletal disorders. The Health and Safety Executive has identified the following activities carry a high risk of musculoskeletal injury;
- Block laying;
- Handling pipework;
- Laying kerbs and paving slabs;
- Moving and installing plaster board and;
- Installing mechanical and electrical equipment at height.
In an article dated 15th March this year, the HSE stated that 1 in 5 constructions sites in Britain have been subject to enforcement action after failing safety checks. During 2011/12 there were and 2,884 major injuries in the construction industry were reported.
The legal framework for safeguarding employees is largely governed by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. The main duties can be summarised as follows;
- Identify a hazard by risk assessing manual handling activities.
- Once the risk has been identified and assessed, the employer must avoid the need for employees to carry out manual handling work.
- Where they cannot avoid this, they must then control the risk of injury to the employees by implementing safety measures.
For example, an employer might identify that lifting a heavy load might increase the risk of injury. They might then look at mechanical lifting as an option. They might implement a safety procedure that certain heavy items have to be lifted using mechanical assistance.
At Roberts Jackson we have numerous successful cumulative back cases where our clients have worked in construction. One example of a successful case is as follows;
Mr H worked in the construction industry for many years carrying out very heavy manual handling. He had a pre-existing back condition before he started working for his employer. However at the time of his employment, his symptoms did not appear to be too significant to him and his symptoms were under control.
A few years into his employment, his work changed from part time to full time. Shortly after, he began to notice his back pain symptoms started and then got worse. He reported his symptoms to his GP and his employer. His employer did not take any action and continued to expose him to heavy manual handling and poor posture which could give rise to an injury.
As a result, his symptoms worsened and he had to take time off work now and again and eventually had to leave his employment with the employer due to his symptoms and take up alternative employment. It also affected how he went about his daily life. Mr H brought a claim against his previous employer and recovered compensation for the injuries he sustained as a result of his employers breaches as well as compensation for his loss of earnings.
If you are suffering from back pain that you think has been caused or made worse by your job, then we suggest taking the following steps;
- Inform work that you are struggling and ask for assistance;
- See if your GP has any recommendations. She may also be able to provide a note to your employer detailing your problems;
- In addition to seeing your own GP, ask if you can see your occupational health professional through work;
- If you are a member of a Trade Union ask to speak to your safety officer and see if they are able to take any action on your behalf.
We work closely and are a sponsor of the Backcare charity. Please see the external link below for information regarding symptoms, pain management and coping with chronic back conditions.
If you are suffering from back pain and are a construction worker, please telephone us for free legal advice on 0800 001 4496.