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Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMSD)


Why is it a priority?

WRMSDs are muscle, tendon and nerve disorders, characterised by discomfort, impairment, disability or persistent pains in joints, muscles, tendons or other soft tissues developed during the course of work. The manual handling activities which may contribute to these injuries include forceful exertions, awkward postures, static postures, repetitive movements & vibrations. There are current guidelines available in Singapore that can address WRMSD.  

As shown in Figure 10, there has been an upward trend in the number of diagnosed WRMSD cases over the last five years, from 237 cases in 2013 to 337 in 2017. The increase could be attributed to the reclassification of back injuries due to ergonomic risks as WRMSD in 2014 instead of general injuries previously. Through this reclassification, we can better focus on the WRMSD issue and adopt targeted interventions according.

For example, 62% of the WRMSD cases reported between 2013-2017 involved younger workers, aged between 21 to 40 years old.  This is an area of concern as these “young workers” today may require long term medical care in future if their WRMSD is undiagnosed or untreated.  

 

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Figure 10: Number of WRMSD Cases, Year 2013 - 2017
Source: WSH National Statistics Report 2017

The top three sectors (Figure 11) contributing to WRMSD in 2013 - 2017 were: 

  1. Transport and storage (19%);
  2. Manufacturing (16%); and
  3. Construction (10%).

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Figure 11: Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders by Industry (Year 2013 - 2017)
Source: WSH National Statistics Report 2017


Research Needs

To develop more effective measures to prevent WRMSD, the following research needs are proposed:

  • Determine challenges in preventing WRMSD and solutions to overcome these challenges;
  • Develop and test solutions to prevent WRMSD in at-risk sectors; and
  • Evaluate effectiveness of interventions by measuring workers’ unsafe behaviour, complaints of back ache, cost and productivity etc
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