Occupational health hazards are common in many sectors and are on the increase. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are problems of musculoskeletal system, are significant and costly workplace problems affecting occupational health, productivity and the careers of the working population. Although there is a lack of uniform medical information and a clear understanding of the nature of MSDs, and significant difficulties in diagnosis which generate an ongoing debate regarding many aspects of these conditions, various risk factors are identified and preventive measures are available. As safety and health at work is a realistic target and prevention is clearly the best approach, the preventive philosophy deserves particular attention. This review aims to provide background information on general features of MSDs, identified risk factors and the basic philosophy of prevention.