Musculoskeletal disorders in catering and hospitality

On this page you will find advice on what to do to reduce the risk of suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder or injury.

What you must do

As well as carrying out the general risk assessment requirements set out in the Management Regulations, you are required by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) to:

  • avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided; and
  • reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Your risk assessment should cover all standard operations, including cleaning and maintenance activities. It should reflect how the work is actually done.

The main areas you should focus on are the task, load, working environment and individual capability.

What you should know

Back pain and other aches arising from manual handling injuries are the most common type of occupational ill health in the UK. In kitchens there are many tasks that, without proper controls, can cause back pain or upper limb injuries that can affect hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.

Lifting and carrying heavy items or pushing and pulling can be a major source of back pain, while forceful or repetitive activities and poor posture can be linked to upper limb injuries.

Catering Information Sheet 24: Preventing back pain and other aches and pains to kitchen and food service staff, provides information on significant risk areas to look for and offers practical examples of solutions that you can apply in your workplace. It lists other HSE guidance available on manual handling and preventing back pain. It is aimed mainly at employers although it will also be useful to employees and safety representatives.

The key messages are:

  • you can easily take action to prevent or minimise this type of injury;
  • the preventive measures are cost effective;
  • involving staff is key to success;
  • training staff in proper lifting techniques, use of handling aids and raising awareness of the risks will reduce the likelihood of injuries in the future;
  • early detection and reporting of aches and pains is crucial.

Find out more

Case study


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