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Know the early signs of MSDs

In this activity participants view Napo scenes about musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). They are introduced to the use of ‘body mapping’ to identify common symptoms of MSDs, and ‘hazard mapping’ to identify MSD-related hazards in the workplace.

Facilitator guidance
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Learning Objectives

Participants understand:

  • the importance of identifying and looking for the common occurrence of (trends in) symptoms of aches and pains of the wrist neck lower back etc. (w)
  • how to associate these with tasks, equipment and work organisation (w)
  • value of taking a collective approach to identifying symptoms and hazards, looking for solutions and setting priorities (w)

managers (m) supervisors (s) and workers (w)


Facilitator to show the Napo clip. Then encourage participants to identify their own symptoms and workplace hazards together using one or more of the following activities:

(1) To identify symptoms, encourage workers to place marks on the body map to show problems they have. Different colours can be used to identify different symptoms (RED - aches and pains, BLUE - cuts and bruises, GREEN – illnesses, BLACK- anything else.

(2) To identify hazards, Group workers working in the same locations and ask the group to draw their work area, including the equipment in it, themselves and colleagues. Using coloured labels or pens encourage workers to mark hazards. Different colours can be used to identify different hazards: BROWN - Work Design Hazards (ergonomics), RED - Physical (noise, heat), BLACK - Psychosocial (stress, shiftwork).

N.B these activities work best with workers carrying out similar tasks.

Questions to consider:

(1) Identifying symptoms: what are all the possible MSD ill effects: aches and pains, chronic illnesses appearing on the body map? Can you identify and explain your marks? What common features and differences are seen? What you think the causes could be? Can you suggest any solutions? (w)

(2) Identifying hazards: what are the different types of hazards that have been identified? What patterns or peculiarities can you see in the hazards that have been identified? What solutions could be proposed? What priorities could be set? (w)

Concluding questions
  • How has this group activity improved your own understanding of any aches and pains you have and the possible causes? (w)
  • Can you explain the importance of taking time to identify common symptoms and assessing the ergonomic hazards associated with them? (w)
  • Does seeing that others may have the same problems encourage you to raise symptoms or problems earlier?
  • Participants can explain the short and long-term benefits of identifying common symptoms and early reporting, as well as assessing ergonomic hazards on a personal and organisational level (w)
Resources required
  • Large body shape template
  • Large sheets of paper and flip chart
  • Coloured stickers and pens
  • Different colours can be used to identify different hazards: BROWN - Work Design Hazards (ergonomics), RED - Physical (noise, , heat), BLACK - Psychosocial (stress, shiftwork)
  • Go to video