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  • Sophie Ginn | Clinical Team Leader, PAM OH Solutions

Why one in ten MSK absences are due to broken bones

broken bone

Issues ranging from worsening nutrition and poor posture to increasingly sedentary lifestyles are undermining the bone health of employees.

According to our latest research report, more than one in ten (13%) people who were absent due to a musculoskeletal (MSK) issue were off sick due to a broken a bone. In addition, HSE research shows 95% of major slips at work now result in broken bones.


Low levels of sunlight during the winter months means that by the time the clocks go forward, on Sunday 31 March, many people in the UK will be vitamin D-deficient. This means their bodies will be struggling to absorb the calcium needed for healthy bones.


Add this to increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and the impact of aging and the menopause on bone health, and there’s lots for employers to think about. Sophie Ginn, one of our clinical leaders, shares her top five tips for supporting the bone health of your workforce.

Five ways to support the bone health of employees


1. Make sure employees aren’t vitamin D-deficient

The geographical location of the UK means the sun simply isn’t strong enough for people to absorb vitamin D, between September and March. As a result, the government recommends that everyone consider taking a daily vitamin supplement during the winter months to help keep bones and muscles healthy.


Unfortunately, not only are half of British adults (49%) unaware of this recommendation, but two in five (44%) don’t think they get enough calcium. Trends such as Veganuary, when people give up dairy and meat for the month of January, further undermine bone health, especially if employees don’t know which alternative food products, such as soy and mushrooms, can be used to support healthy bones.


All of which means employers have a valuable role to play when it comes to educating employees about the nutrients and food they need to eat for healthy bones. For example, the importance of vitamin D, found in leafy green vegetables, oily fish and egg yolks, for enabling their bodies to absorb the calcium found in milk, cheese, nuts and soya beans.



2. Encourage employees to stay active


Many people have cut out the only real exercise they did on a daily basis since starting to work from home. But, even if they no longer need to walk to the train station or move about an office, it’s important to keep them active.


Bones need ten minutes of ‘loading exercise’ – such as brisk walking, stamping your feet, climbing stairs or jogging – five times a week to stay healthy. This is because bones are living tissue, becoming denser and stronger in response to the forces placed upon them.


It’s therefore important to encourage employees to stay active, whether that’s using the bathroom that’s up two flights of steps at work or joining one of many couch-to-5K running groups around the country. Managers should also be encouraged to consider whether people need to be seated in meetings, so they can suggest ‘talk and walk’ meetings where possible, even if that means talking over the phone instead of via Teams.



3. Be mindful of at-risk groups


Everyone’s bone density starts to decrease from the age of 35, but women lose bone strength at a faster rate after the menopause due to falling oestrogen levels (which keeps bones strong). As many as one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis and a fifth of these will break at least three more bones before being diagnosed.


There are many medications that can reduce the risk of further fractures, and even rebuild bone strength, so make sure women know about the risks they face. Certain medications, including some breast cancer medications, and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, can also reduce bone strength.


Be mindful of these at-risk groups and encourage anyone who easily breaks a bone to speak to their GP or occupational health. Also educate younger employees that our bones are like a bank account where you can make ‘deposits’ to build health earlier in life to support yourself in later life. The more deposits they make now, by eating well and exercising to build up bone strength, the less likely they are to go ‘overdrawn’ in later years.



4. Make sure people are working ergonomically


Posture has a vital role to play when it comes to sustaining good balance and bone strength, especially when it comes to our spines. The vertebral fractures associated with osteoporosis tend to occur within the thoracic (mid spine) and can be made worse by repetitive bending if this isn’t done safely.


It’s therefore important to ensure that employees are working safely in ergonomic ways. Most work tasks are repetitive, so they more people complete them using poor posture, the more likely they are to weaken their bones and muscles.


Our free Display Screen Assessment (DSE) service enables employees to undergo a free self-assessment and training on how best to safely use their screens. Plus alert them to any ergonomic equipment they might need to do this. While our vehicle and manual training assessments can help those in more physical roles. All of which can also help you meet your statutory requirements to keep people safe.



5. Make reasonable adjustments


Once a bone has been set, and the pain of breaking a bone subsidised, there’s no reason why someone can’t be helped to continue to stay in work, especially as keeping active in a safe way is often very beneficial to recovery.


One of the first bones people tend to break is their wrist. Depending on whether this is their dominant side, someone involved in computer work could continue to work with reasonable adjustments, such as dictation software, as their typing speed will be slower. If their role is quite manual, they won’t be able to do two-handed work for a time, so might need to be moved into a different role temporarily.


The biggest rehabilitation challenge can come once the break is healed and the employee needs help to rehabilitate the muscles and ligaments impacted. Physiotherapy is typically required for three to twelve months, with further reasonable adjustments put in place to support this.


Free training session: Supporting the bone health of employees

10am, Tuesday 16 April 2024

broken bone webinar

Join Sophie Ginn, clinical team leader, PAM OH Solutions, for a free 45-minute training session on how to support the bone health of employees and reduce the one in ten MSK absences caused by broken bones.


During this 45-minute session (with 15 mins of Q&A afterwards), you will learn:


  • How poor bone health is impacting on sickness absence and productivity

  • Ways to create a culture that supports the bone health of employees

  • How to identify and support employees who are struggling with bone health

  • The importance of nutrition, ergonomics and reducing sedentary behaviour

  • How to support someone with a broken bone to stay in work while they recover


How PAM OH can help…


Nutrition webinars – online educating delivered by our engaging clinical experts on topics including eating well for less and the benefits of vitamin D for bones and general immunity


Free DSE assessment – to help employees reduce ergonomic risks and improve posture to support good bone health and reduce the risk of vertebral fractures


Physiotherapy information line (PhIL) – to provide employees with expert advice on supporting musculoskeletal (MSK) health, including recovering from a broken bone


Return to work programmes – featuring manager referral helpline to support employees with musculoskeletal (MSK) issues, including broken bones and fractures, to return to work

For more information, please contact us via or 01925 227 000


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1 Comment

Eddy Smith
Eddy Smith
Jun 24

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