Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders

Statistics from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) indicate that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common occupational diseases affecting millions of workers across Europe and around the world. This disease can affect the daily development of the worker and cause important expenditures to the entrepreneurs.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, cartilages, bones or blood vessels of the arms, legs, head, neck, or back that are produced or Aggravated by labor tasks such as lifting, pushing or pulling objects. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, numbness and tingling (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).

To effectively address and prevent MSDs at work, physical causes and organizational risk factors must be known. The EU-OSHA explains that there is normally not a single cause of TME, but several factors work together, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Handling loads, especially when bending and turning.
  • Repetitive or forced movements.
  • Strange or static postures.
  • Vibrations, poor lighting or cold working environments.
  • Work at a high rate.
  • Standing or sitting for a long time in the same position.

There is increasing evidence linking musculoskeletal disorders with psychosocial risk factors (especially combined with physical risks), including:

  • High level of work requirement or low autonomy.
  • Poor job satisfaction.

Prevention is essential to prevent MSDs among workers. In most cases professional advice is needed to effectively minimize the risk of TME, however, EU-OSHA indicates the following recommendations for prevention:

  • Design of the workplace: adapt the design to improve the work positions.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Provide the worker with PPE, ensuring that the PPE is ergonomically designed and suitable for the tasks.
  • Workers: raise awareness of the risk of TME by providing information and training on good working methods.
  • Tasks: change working methods or tools, if necessary.
  • Management: plan work to avoid repetitive movements or work in bad postures for a long time. Similarly, you should plan breaks to rest, rotate jobs, or reassign work, if necessary.
  • Organizational factors: develop a policy on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

If there are already cases of employees with MSDs, management approaches should be considered where there is health surveillance and promotion, rehabilitation and reintegration of workers.

Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)