Musculoskeletal disorders significantly impact Malaysian workers, highlighting the need for ergonomic assessments, training programmes, health promotion and stronger regulations to improve occupational health.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent a significant public health concern globally, including in Malaysia. These disorders affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and skeletal structures, leading to pain, discomfort and disability. In Malaysia, where various industries thrive, the prevalence of MSDs among workers is a critical issue that demands attention from both policymakers and employers. Examining MSDs from an occupational health perspective sheds light on their causes, impact and preventive measures within the Malaysian context.



Malaysia’s diverse economy encompasses manufacturing, agriculture, construction, healthcare and service sectors, where workers are exposed to various occupational hazards contributing to MSDs. According to the Malaysian Ministry of Health, MSDs are among the leading occupational health problems in the country. Workers engaged in repetitive tasks, prolonged standing or sitting, heavy lifting and awkward postures are particularly susceptible to MSDs.

The impact of MSDs extends beyond physical discomfort. It affects worker productivity, quality of life and imposes a substantial economic burden on both individuals and the healthcare system. The loss of working days due to MSD-related absenteeism and decreased efficiency contributes to decreased productivity and increased costs for employers and the economy as a whole.



Several factors contribute to the prevalence of MSDs among Malaysian workers. Poor ergonomics, inadequate workplace design, a lack of awareness about ergonomic principles and insufficient training on proper lifting techniques are common issues across industries. Additionally, the pressure to meet production targets or deadlines often leads workers to overexert themselves, increasing the risk of injury and MSDs.

In sectors like construction and agriculture, workers are exposed to physically demanding tasks and environmental factors such as vibration, extreme temperatures and exposure to hazardous substances, further exacerbating the risk of MSDs. Furthermore, the ageing workforce in Malaysia presents unique challenges, as older workers may be more susceptible to MSDs due to age-related physiological changes.


Addressing MSDs requires a multifaceted approach that involves collaboration between employers, government agencies, healthcare professionals and workers themselves. Implementing ergonomic principles and designing workstations that promote proper posture and body mechanics can significantly reduce the risk of MSDs. Employers should invest in ergonomic assessments and modifications to ensure that work environments are conducive to musculoskeletal health. Employers should also conduct a yearly Basic Ergonomics Risk Assessment to weed out poor ergonomic practices.

Providing comprehensive training programmes on ergonomics, safe work practices and the importance of rest breaks can empower workers to take proactive measures to prevent MSDs. Regular health screenings and early intervention programmes can help identify MSDs at their onset and prevent them from progressing into more severe conditions.

Legislative measures and the enforcement of occupational health and safety regulations play a crucial role in protecting workers from MSDs. Malaysian authorities such as the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), must strengthen enforcement mechanisms, conduct regular inspections and impose penalties on non-compliant employers to ensure adherence to safety standards.



Cultivating a culture of health and safety is paramount to preventing MSDs and promoting overall wellbeing in the workplace. Employers should foster open communication channels where workers feel comfortable reporting ergonomic concerns and seeking assistance when experiencing discomfort or pain.

Encouraging job rotation, task variability and providing adequate rest periods can mitigate the risk of overuse injuries and repetitive strain. Furthermore, promoting regular physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices and stress management techniques among workers can complement efforts to prevent MSDs and enhance overall resilience.



As Malaysia continues to undergo economic development and industrial growth, addressing the prevalence of MSDs remains a pressing challenge. The emergence of new technologies, automation and changes in work patterns may introduce novel risks for MSDs that require proactive mitigation strategies.

Collaborative research efforts, data collection and surveillance systems are essential for monitoring trends, identifying high-risk occupations and evaluating the effectiveness of preventive measures. Integrating ergonomic considerations into occupational health policies, educational curricula and professional training programmes can enhance awareness and capacity-building initiatives across sectors.

Musculoskeletal disorders represent a significant occupational health concern in Malaysia, affecting workers across various industries. By understanding the contributing factors, implementing preventive measures and fostering a culture of health and safety, stakeholders can mitigate the burden of MSDs and create healthier, more productive work environments for all. Prioritising musculoskeletal health is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in the wellbeing and sustainability of Malaysia’s workforce and economy.

Addressing musculoskeletal disorders requires a comprehensive and concerted effort from all stakeholders. By prioritising prevention, intervention and promoting a culture of health and safety, Malaysia can mitigate the impact of MSDs and ensure the wellbeing of its workforce in the years to come.



Dr Arulkumaran Viapuri graduated with an MBBS from AIMST University in 2010. He then completed his MBA in Healthcare Management and joined Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur. Soon he was involved in both the PETRONAS Kerteh and RAPID Pengerang Projects, after which he obtained his licence as an occupational health doctor. He has been an occupational health doctor for the past 10 years, with sufficient experience in the industry. In Bukit Tinggi Medical Centre (BTMC), he is involved in establishing a staff health clinic that encompasses staff wellness, occupational health and mental health.

 Published on Calibre, May/June2024