Skip to content
All of our products are manufactured here in the UK. Bulk discount available on large orders, contact our sales team for more information.
All of our products are manufactured here in the UK. Bulk discount available on large orders, contact our sales team for more information.
What is the impact of back problems on UK workers?

What is the impact of back problems on UK workers?

Back problems remain a common issue faced by workers across the UK. According to ONS data, economic inactivity from long-term sickness for neck and back problems rose 28% from 2019 to 2023, showing this is a growing issue for UK workers.

With this being such a contributing factor to time spent off work and long-term sickness we wanted to look at the main causes of back problems within the workplace and offer guidance to both employees and employers for ways to avoid risk of back problems.

How big is the problem?

As mentioned, back problems are causing rising economic inactivity across the UK. There were 778,786 cases of workers being out of work due to back and neck problems last year. Workers being long term sick for neck and back issues is more prevalent in workers aged 35-49. 







ONS data, 2023

Breaking down the ONS data analysed, retail and wholesale industries saw the most cases of workers being inactive due to long-term sickness. The transport and storage, hospitality, health and social work, construction, and manufacturing industries also had more former workers inactive because of long-term sickness for every 1,000 current workers than the UK average. Data also shows the lower paid you are, the more likely you are to be on long-term sick within your respective industry (ONS study, 10 November 2022).

World Health Organization data proves this is not a unique problem to the UK, as their research shows musculoskeletal conditions affect 1.7 billion people worldwide. Musculoskeletal conditions are the leading contributor to disability worldwide, with low back pain being the single leading cause of disability in 160 countries.

What are the causes of back problems at work?

Back problems can arise from one incident resulting in injury or prolonged repetitive tasks performed without proper health and safety training or equipment. There are other factors which can play a part, such as personal predisposition to medical conditions and other lifestyle factors.

Some back problem cause factors for employers and employees to monitor include:

  • Handling heavy goods without supervision
  • Posture when lifting
  • Picking up goods beyond the recommended weight limit of one person
  • Operating vibration tools
  • Lifting heavy items for a sustained period of time
  • Handling goods in poor temperatures
  • Sitting incorrectly at desks without taking breaks
  • Pushing or dragging heavy items
  • Neglecting to use proper equipment such as warehouse trolleys or cages
  • Twisting when lifting
  • Having the incorrect PPE uniform or tools to do the job safely

As mentioned, lifestyle factors can increase risk such as smoking, physical fitness, alcohol and having previous injuries.

What can employees do to avoid back problems?

Employers are legally obligated to protect workers from health or injury risk, meaning you are well within your right to raise concerns if you feel your working environment is putting you at an increased risk of back problems.

For office workers having chairs with adjustable lumbar support is recommended to reduce the impact of sitting all day on your back and neck. Having screens at the appropriate height also stops you craning forward to see your screen, which can impact your neck and back long-term. 

For manual workers there are many things to do to reduce your risk. Ensuring you have had the correct training on lifting heavy goods is an absolute must to ensure you know how to lift safely to avoid injury. Following the right technique and understanding your own capabilities of weight limits is crucial. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle whilst in a manual job will also help you meet the physical demands of the job.

If your health has changed or you begin to develop problems with your back you should seek medical advice and inform your employer of anything which may affect your ability to perform your work duties. You can reach out to your HR representative to discuss any reasonable adjustments that could be made to your role or additional equipment your workplace can provide to ensure you can stay in work. Assessing this in advance and asking for help can ensure your health issues don’t get any worse and allow you to potentially avoid time off sick.


What can employers do to avoid employee back problems?

It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment that reduces employee risk of health problems. Assessments should be done for all employees and employers should be aware of any pre-existing medical conditions that could make an employer have a higher risk of injury. Conducting risk assessments and being flexible to meet your employees’ needs means you can ensure they are able to work effectively for you and could reduce them taking extended time off if they are not able to work in less accommodating work environments.

Providing PPE and the right equipment for the job also plays a huge role in maintaining employee health. For workplaces where employees are expected to handle heavy goods you should consider whether warehouse trolleys and cages are required to make moving goods more efficient and ensuring employees are not attempting to lift items beyond their limit.

Managers should be aware of the periods of time they are asking employees to lift items for or sustained periods of manual work. Monitoring time spent performing manual tasks and safeguarding employee risk will go a long way towards reducing injury risk and chance of staff developing back problems later in life. 

In the office, work stations should be set up to correct health and safety recommendations. Proper chairs, desks and screen recommendations should be met to reduce poor posture of employees sitting for long periods of time. Offering standing desks can be a great way to allow employees to maintain good posture and avoid health risks of an overly sedentary routine.

When it comes to keeping the workplace safe, BlueTrolley is here to lend a helping hand. We provide high-quality, safe warehouse equipment of an impeccable standard, and can even create trolleys to suit your specific needs. Send us an email or give us call for more information, or feel free to browse our range of trolleys and other handling equipment.
Previous article What can employers do to support good mental health amongst manual and trade workers?
Next article How do night shifts affect workers' health?
Bespoke Order Enquiry
If you'd like to get in touch about a bespoke order, simply fill in the form below and a member of our team will get back to you.