Backing up good practice - Back Care Awareness Week 4 - 8 October 2021

Date published: 06 October 2021

Are you handling with care? That’s the question being posed for Back Care Awareness Week as employers are encouraged to make sure they are backing up good practice in manual handling. Over 18,000 cases of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) in Northern Ireland are estimated to be caused or made worse by work.

A picture of a man with back problems in a health setting

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are a collective term used to describe those conditions which can affect the muscles, joints and tendons causing pain in all parts of the body including the back.

The data on MSDs, taken from the 2018-2019 Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey, gives an idea of the extent of the problem and is relevant to all sectors of work, although the health care sector is identified as having one of the highest prevalence of MSDs across the United Kingdom.

The cost to an individual as a result of an absence from work relating to MSD’s not only extends to loss of income and possible job opportunities, living with pain and discomfort but also the mental burden of being away from work for a prolonged period of time. In the long term it can result in employees having to leave their place of work permanently which can prevent them from leading a full and active life.

Employee ill-health places a financial burden on local employers and society in general. Injuries relating to handling activities within the workplace have a significant impact on employers including loss of production, additional training to upskill new employees and compensation costs.

In April 2020, the “Handling with Care” booklet which acts as a practical guide in the prevention and management of MSD’s in the healthcare sector was produced. The guide was developed as a joint working initiative between HSENI and members of the Northern Ireland Group of National Back Exchange (NBE).

The NBE is a multiagency group (comprising of professionals from a wide range of disciplines, including: Health and Social Care, Therapies, Education, Health and Safety, Ergonomics, Equipment Manufacturing and Industry) with a specialist interest in back care and the prevention of MSDs.

Sue Spence, HSENI’s Occupational Health Specialist, explained the significance of Back Care Awareness Week and how important it is for employers to carry out a risk assessment to ensure risks from manual handling activities are minimised. She confirmed that all healthcare staff should have the training and information they need, so they are indeed handling with care and in doing so, are backing up good practice in their workplace. 

Copies of the “Handling with Care” booklet can be downloaded from our website at the following link:

Notes to editors: 

  1. Further information can be obtained from the HSENI website at
  2. The National Back Exchange (NBE) is a non-profit membership association whose goal is to develop, disseminate and promote evidence-based best practice in all aspects of moving and handling and musculoskeletal health.
  3. NBE consults widely with other organisations / stakeholders having similar goals and actively contributing to national working parties and projects as well as supporting research and practice development. Further information can be found at:
  1. For media enquiries please contact HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249, or email
  2. For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110

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