Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common work related injuries and diseases in NSW, and can have long-term, costly impacts for businesses and workers.

An MSD is an injury to, or disease of, the body’s musculoskeletal system and includes sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. MSDs can result from gradual wear and tear and/or sudden damage to these parts of the body, and are commonly caused by hazardous manual tasks and slips, trips and falls.

When workers are required to perform a manual task, there are certain characteristics that make it hazardous. These are:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitious movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

When workers are exposed to these characteristics of a hazardous manual task (risk factors), there is a greater risk of them getting a work related MSD.

There are physical, psychosocial and organisational causal factors in the workplace that may drive the presence and severity of risk factors for a hazardous manual task. It is recognised that these causal factors are interrelated and can impact upon each other.

Data shows that MSDs span across all industries and occupations. Hazardous manual tasks are the most common cause of injury, accounting for 29 per cent of workplace injuries in NSW(1).

By implementing this Musculoskeletal Disorder Strategy (the Strategy), SafeWork NSW intends to deliver on the Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022 commitment to reduce serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses. NSW has met and exceeded the original target of a 30% reduction, and accordingly the Government have set a more ambitious target. By 2022, NSW aims to achieve a 50 per cent decline in the incidence rate of serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses.

MSD injuries and illnesses

  • 17 weeks = average total time lost (3)
  • 19,525 = major MSD claims (3)
  • $32,774 = average cost of a claim (3)

Our target

  • A 50 per cent decline in the incidence rate of claims*
  • A 50 per cent reduction will see almost 13,500 fewer serious work related MSD injuries and a saving in excess of $415 million to NSW businesses(2)

2. This reduction will be measured against the baseline in the National Strategy. For serious musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses the baseline is the average of the relevant incidence rate for the three financial years 2009/10 to 2011/12.

3. Major musculoskeletal injury and disease claims 2013/14 to 2015/16, NSW Workers’ Compensation Claims data.

* Incidents resulting in one or more weeks off work. This decline is measured over ten years from 2012 to 2022.

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