Cover: Evidence on the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Evidence on the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Evidence Summary to 29 April 2021

Published in: Health and Safety Executive website (2023)

Posted on rand.org Jul 28, 2023

by Stephanie Stockwell, Gemma-Claire Ali, Brandi Leach, William D. Phillips, Michael Whitmore

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic necessitated rapid changes to working practices and environments at the individual, organisational and national levels. These changes may have altered the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) by changing exposure to known risk factors. Firstly, increased demands, such as longer work hours, were placed on key workers – including healthcare, construction, education, transport and public services – increasing their work-related physical and psychosocial burdens. Secondly, workers from many occupations were furloughed, such as those from the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. While this may have initially reduced their daily exposure to physical and psychosocial WRMSD risk factors, the potential for muscular deconditioning, such as lack of physical activity leading to deterioration of muscles, during a sustained period away from work may have increased their risk of WRMSDs on their return. Finally, people who began working from home due to the pandemic, for instance managers, directors, office workers, and administrative staff, faced unexpected changes in their working environments. As a result, some employees may have worked with inadequate computer and workstation set-ups.

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