82% of UK early years and primary practitioners experience work-related Musculoskeletal (MSDs) atleast once a week (REF). Health and safety laws apply to work activities in registered childcare premises and schools. As an employer or duty holder*, you need to protect your workers from the risk of injury and ill health from MSDs. This guidance suggests ways you can do this.
Who should read this leaflet?
The guidance is helpful to employers and duty holders of the Early Years and Childcare workforce. Employees, students, volunteers and trainers who work with children 0-5 years, as well as self-employed people may also find it useful.
What are MSDs?
Any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. Back pain caused by work-related activities (for example, lifting children, siting on children’s chairs, getting on/off the carpet) can come on quickly or build slowly but once developed can greatly affect many aspects of life, including work and leisure, ability to take care of our mental and physical health, ability to drive and can lead to absence from work. Symptoms can include back ache, sciatica, knee pain and shoulder discomfort, hip stiffness, painful toe joints and others.
Effective awareness and management of MSDs helps reduce risk, no matter what size your organisation is. It could also result in, for example:
- fewer injuries to practitioners;
- reduced risk of work-related ill health;
- reduced stress and improved morale;
- improved professional care to children;
- improved safety for children.
Examples of working practices which can increase MSD risk in 0-5 settings include:
- Repetitive bending and twisting (e.g. over low tables and child-height sinks)
- Uncomfortable working position, including unsuitable furniture (e.g. sitting on children’s chairs, kneeling at child-height desks)
- Repetitive or awkward lifting of children and heavy equipment (e.g. when using nappy changing units, at mealtimes, moving sand/water trays and outdoor equipment)
- Not receiving and acting upon notification of symptoms quickly enough (e.g. niggling pain leading to longer term injury. Prevention of injury is most effective)
- Psychosocial factors (e.g. high job demands leading to increased anxiety and associated MSD risk)
- Working too long without a break (e.g. not allowing body to rest and recover)
- Time pressures (e.g. inadequate time to move and change postures, or to use correctly set up and use appropriate equipment)