Bad Backs Cost Billions – so what’s the cure?

Bad Backs Cost Billions – so what’s the cure?

In 2015/16 a total of 8.8 million* working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), which is reported to have cost Great Britain over £5 billion. With the transportation and storage sector experiencing significantly higher rates of WRMSDs, compared with the rates for all industries, RTITB, the preferred workplace transport training regulatory body, is reminding logistics businesses that prevention, in the form of training, is better than cure.

Musculoskeletal disorders affect quality of life for much of the population, and refer to the back (usually caused by lifting and handling), upper limbs (often due to repetitive tasks and display screen use), and lower limbs (from tasks involving prolonged kneeling or standing). Transportation and storage is one of the most at-risk sectors, along with food and drink, aviation and 3PL sectors.

Having identified that 41% of all work-related ill-health cases, and 34% of all associated working days lost, are due to WRMSDs, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has unveiled a new strategy plan that aims to reduce the incidence rate and severity of WRMSDs, with prevention at the heart of it.

“Risk factors are managed most effectively if a whole-system approach is taken encompassing prevention…” the HSE strategy** states, proposing targeted interventions in high-risk sectors, such as transportation and storage, and promoting the business benefits of effective MSD management.

“Health and safety are of paramount importance to RTITB, so we are keen to support the HSE’s strategy,” Laura Nelson, Managing Director of RTITB, says. “MSDs are obviously not good for the health of our logistics workforces which, in turn, has a negative impact on businesses’ bottom line. Training might sound like a simple answer to this huge problem, but we believe it’s the best place to start.”

Many MSDs can be attributed to poor practice in manual handling. RTITB has developed a manual handling training programme that has been designed exclusively for professionals in the transport, warehousing and logistics sectors. It helps to ensure compliance with manual handling regulations (according to L23 Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992), reduces the risk of handling injury, and ensures investment in high quality and relevant manual handling training.

“By implementing quality training, employers can greatly reduce the risks of injury amongst their staff, and the associated costs of absence” says Laura. “Manual handling training is not just showing how to pick up a heavy box. It helps to change behaviour throughout a company, improve health, boost morale and reduce absence.”

Pushing and pulling loads (moving loads using wheeled equipment, such as hand trolleys, pump trucks or carts, or dragging/sliding and rolling) can be used as way to reduce the risk, but does not eliminate it completely. Risk assessment for pushing and pulling includes the person’s posture, the forces required to start / stop and move the load and the distance it is required to travel. It is also important to ensure the correct handling equipment is being used for the specific task.

Training providers and in-house trainers can use RTITB training materials, which can be tailored to specific sector and operation requirements, to enable candidates to learn and practice correct handling techniques in a controlled environment, whether manual handling or using materials handling equipment. This helps to develop confidence before using their new skills and equipment in the workplace. Testing, as part of the training, provides employers with a true measurement of competence or highlights where further training may be required.

RTITB recommends a combination of appropriate equipment, sufficient training for the tasks required and continued supervision, to help employers improve safety and productivity amongst staff.

“The cost incurred by not tackling health issues far outweigh the cost of investment in training,” says Laura. “Prevention is always better than cure, to reduce risks, enhance welfare, and improve the bottom line.”

For further information visit

Leave a Comment