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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
Back pain cripples small firms
Office worker
Workers in small firms are most at risk from back pain
Small business in the UK are being crippled by back trouble among staff.

A report published on Monday reveals that around 13 million working days are lost every year - with 63% of small firms saying one in five of their staff suffer from back strain.

The worst affected region is the North East, followed closely by firms in London.

In a small firm the results can be catastrophic

TUC general secretary John Monks

The report's authors BackCare, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) and the Trades Union Congress, say back strain is more common in small firms of less than 100 people than in larger workplaces because of a lack of help, resources and guidance.

They are urging the government to take note of the research and support awareness raising campaigns among the business community.

Costly business

TUC general secretary John Monks said losing an employee with work-related back strain could cause problems for any size business.

"But in a small firm the results can be catastrophic," he said.
Caterer
Caterers who spend a long time standing could be at risk

"Bad backs are not just excruciatingly painful for individuals, they are also extremely costly for a business left without key workers for many months."

Nearly three-quarters of employees with back problems lift as part of their job and more than two-thirds do a lot of standing in careers such as agriculture and catering.

The North East is the worst hit, with 71% with back strain in small firms, closely followed by London and the South West.

The South East has the least number of small businesses reporting back pain, 47%, possibly due to the number of large companies in the area.

Education

The report also found that men are more likely than women to take time off sick when their back starts to hurt.

The BackCare report includes guidelines to help stop the trend. Recommendations include getting schools, trade unions and business organisations to educate small business owners on causes and prevention of back strain.

The need for better access to physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths is also highlighted as well as tax reductions on equipment that reduces back pain.

FPB chairman Stan Mendham said good research could pay off for small firms.

"We now understand the effect of back strain in the key sectors affected and we look to the government to recognise and implement all our recommendations," he said.

A free information line for advice on how to avoid, prevent and treat back strain has been set up for the week on 0800 032 0044.

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See also:

17 Sep 00 | Health
Gardening 'bad for backs'
02 Feb 00 | Health
Campaign against back pain
30 Jul 99 | Health
Exercise beats back pain
30 Jun 99 | Health
Back pain torments millions
11 Feb 99 | Health
Genetic link to back pain
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