Unknown content type tagged with "Road Transport + Dangerous substances + Accident prevention + Green jobs + Emerging risks + Nanomaterials + Transport + Maintenance + Psychosocial risks and stress + Migrant workers + Mainstreaming OSH into education + Construction + Agriculture + Musculoskeletal disorders"
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Musculoskeletal disorders usually affect the back, neck, shoulders and upper limbs, but lower limbs can also be affected. They cover any damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues. Health problems range from minor aches and pains to more serious medical conditions requiring time off or medical treatment. In more chronic cases, they can even lead to disability and the need to give up work.
The two main groups of MSDs are back pain/injuries and work-related upper limb disorders (commonly known as ‘repetitive strain injuries’).
Causes of MSDs
Most work-related MSDs develop over time. There is usually no single cause of MSDs; various factors often work in combination. Physical causes and organisational risk factors include:
- Handling loads, especially when bending and twisting
- Repetitive or forceful movements
- Awkward and static postures
- Vibration, poor lighting or cold working environments
- Fast-paced work
- Prolonged sitting or standing in the same position
There is growing evidence linking MSDs with psychosocial risk factors (especially when combined with physical risks), including:
- High demand of work or low autonomy
- Low job satisfaction
There is no single solution, and expert advice may occasionally be needed for unusual or serious problems. However, many solutions are straightforward and inexpensive, for example providing a trolley to assist with handling goods or changing the position of items on a desk.
To tackle MSDs, employers should use a combination of:
- Risk assessment: take a holistic approach, assessing and addressing the full range of causes (see above)
- Employee participation: include staff and their representatives in discussions on possible problems and solutions
Read more about preventing work-related MSDs.
Preventive actions could include changes to:
- Workplace layout: adapt the layout to improve working postures
- Equipment: make sure it is ergonomically designed and suitable for tasks
- Workers: improve risk awareness, provide training in good work methods
- Tasks: change working methods or tools
- Management: plan work to avoid repetitive work or prolonged work in poor postures. Plan rest breaks, rotate jobs or reallocate work
- Organisational factors: develop an MSD policy
Health monitoring, health promotion and rehabilitation and reintegration of workers already suffering from MSDs also need to be considered in the management approach to MSDs.
European directives, regulations of Member States and good practice guidelines already recognise the importance of preventing MSDs. Relevant directives include the general OSH ‘Framework’ directive and the directives covering the following topics: the manual handling of loads, work equipment, minimum standards for work places and work with (computer) display screens.
In 2007, the European Commission ran a consultation on possible Community actions, including new legislation. Possible plans were suspended pending a review of EU directives in 2014-15. MSDs are a a recognised priority by the EU Member States and European Social partners.
EU-OSHA monitors the incidence, causes and prevention of MSDs. EU-OSHA also supports the sharing of good practices.
In fact, 15 % of EU workers have to handle dangerous substances as part of their job, and another 15 % report breathing in smoke, fumes, powder or dust at work.
Some highly dangerous substances — such as asbestos, which causes lung cancer and other fatal respiratory diseases — are now banned or under strict control. However, other harmful substances are still widely used, and legislation is in place to ensure that the risks associated with them are properly managed.
The risks to health
The health problems that can be caused by working with dangerous substances range from mild eye and skin irritations to severe effects such as birth defects and cancer. Effects can be acute or long-term, and some substances can have a cumulative effect. Some of the most common dangers are:
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are found in many sectors. They are usually invisible, which means that the risks they pose may not be considered.
Workers in some sectors are in particular danger of being exposed to harmful biological agents:
- Veterinary services
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Sewage and waste management
- Laboratory work
Find out more:
- EU-OSHA factsheet An introduction to biological agents
- legislation on biological agents and on needlestick injuries and guidelines for the health care sector
Other publications related to biological agents:
- E-fact 53 - Risk assessment for biological agents
- Report - Expert forecast on Emerging Biological Risks related to Occupational Safety and Health
- Biological agents and pandemics: review of the literature and national policies
- Factsheet 39 - Respiratory sensitisers
- Factsheet 40 - Skin sensitisers
- Factsheet 100 - Legionella and legionnaires’ disease: European policies and good practices
New technologies, expanding sectors and changes to the way work is organised can result in greater risk of harm from biological or chemical agents. In the environmental sector, for example, innovative technologies can entail poorly understood risks. To give another example, more and more workers are exposed to dangerous substances in service professions such as home care and waste management, where the exposures are varied but awareness of the hazards involved is low. More than ever, it’s vital that employers and workers understand the potential risks and take preventive action.
More information related to emerging risks:
- Priorities for occupational safety and health research in Europe: 2013-2020
- Report - Expert forecast on Emerging Biological Risks related to Occupational Safety and Health
- Factsheet 68 - Expert forecast on Emerging Biological Risks related to Occupational Safety and Health
- Report - Expert forecast on emerging chemical risks related to occupational safety and health
- Factsheet 84 - Expert forecast on emerging chemical risks related to occupational safety and health
- Report - Green jobs and occupational safety and health: Foresight on new and emerging risks associated with new technologies by 2020 and Summary
- E-fact 72 - Tools for the management of nanomaterials in the workplace and prevention measures
- E-fact 74 - Nanomaterials in maintenance work: occupational risks and prevention
- E-fact 66 - Maintenance and hazardous substances
Advice for employers
To protect workers from dangerous substances, the first step is to carry out a risk assessment. Then, actions should be taken to remove or reduce the risks as far as possible. And, finally, the situation should be regularly monitored and the effectiveness of the steps taken reviewed.
Member States have developed a number of models to help small and medium-sized enterprises to carry out a risk assessment. Read more on the OSHwiki page about risk management for dangerous substances.
Employers also need to take into account any vulnerable groups, such as workers who are young, pregnant or breastfeeding, for whom special protection is required by law.
European legislation establishes a hierarchy of measures that employers need to take to control the risk to workers from dangerous substances. Elimination and substitution are at the top of the hierarchy of control measures.
- Where possible, eliminate the use of dangerous substances by changing the process or product in which the substance is used
- If elimination is not possible, substitute a non-hazardous or less hazardous substance for the dangerous one
- Where the risks to workers are not prevented, apply collective control measures to remove or reduce them. By law, using personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last resort where exposure cannot be adequately controlled by other means.
- For a number of dangerous substances, there are exposure limits (OELs) that need to be respected
- Risk management of dangerous substances
- PPT Dangerous substances and risk assessment (in 22 languages)
- Read EU-OSHA’s factsheet on elimination and substitution of dangerous substances.
To ensure their safety, workers should be kept informed about:
- The findings of their employer’s risk assessment
- The hazards they are exposed to and how they may be affected
- What they have to do to keep themselves and others safe
- How to check and spot when things are wrong
- Who they should report any problems to
- The results of any exposure monitoring or health surveillance
- Preventive measures to be taken in case of maintenance work
- First aid and emergency procedures
By law, employers in the EU must protect their workers from being harmed by dangerous substances in the workplace. Employers must carry out risk assessments and act on them. They are also obliged to provide workers with information and training on dangerous substances and hazardous by-products. Find summaries of the relevant EU legislation.
EU regulations on safety and health at work are incorporated into national legislation, but Member States are also entitled to include additional or stricter provisions for the protection of workers. It is therefore important that businesses check the specific legislation in each relevant country.
Find more about:
- Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the EU regulation on the production and use of chemical substances. It is the strictest law to date on the subject, designed to protect both human health and the environment.
- Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation. This regulation establishes standards on classification and labelling, so that users can understand the substances they are dealing with. It introduced a standardised system of labelling to identify hazardous chemicals.
If children start learning about safety and health as they learn to read and write, it becomes a natural part of how they work, play and live. They develop a good attitude to safety and health that will stay with them throughout their working lives.
Start young, stay safe: successful OSH education
OSH is best integrated into individual subjects rather than taught as a stand-alone topic. Activity-based learning and real-life examples will help bring the message home to children and young people. Key messages can be repeated in different ways for different age groups, whether in primary schools or vocational training colleges.
The whole-school approach is the ideal model. The integration of OSH into further education is more difficult and less well developed, particularly in universities. However, the same ‘whole-institute’ model applies. Networking and working in partnership with OSH authorities are key contributors to successful integration.
Integrating OSH into school life
The whole-school approach combines education and school management. Pupils and staff work together to make the school a safe and healthy place to work and learn through:
- Risk education and OSH management, e.g. involving pupils in hazard spotting
- Health education and promotion, e.g. healthy schools initiatives
- Promoting dignity and respect for all, e.g. anti-bullying campaigns
- Caring for the environment, e.g. reusing and recycling
Tips for successful integration
From case studies we know what helps to make the whole-school approach work:
- Leadership from the head teacher to motivate staff and pupils
- Involving pupils, parents and staff
- Providing practical support and tools; the ‘Napo for teachers’ resource has been helpful here
- Training for teachers
- Networking between schools
- Cooperation between OSH and education authorities
- Being practical and linking risk education to subjects being taught
- Read our report on mainstreaming OSH into the school curriculum programmes
- Network with other professionals through ENETOSH
To achieve this aim, the ERO provides an overview of safety and health at work in Europe, describes the trends and underlying factors, and anticipates changes in work and their likely impact on occupational safety and health.
As our society evolves under the influence of new technology and shifting economic and social conditions, our workplaces, work practices and processes are constantly changing. These new situations bring with them new risks and challenges for workers and employers, which in turn demand political, administrative and technical approaches that ensure high levels of safety and health at work.
Effective prevention can make an important contribution to the overall Europe 2020 objective of achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, as well as increasing the employment rate from 69 to 75 per cent. Many people drop out of the labour market because of poor occupational safety and health, so better risk anticipation is essential if we are to improve risk prevention and achieve sustainable working lives and higher employment rates.
Successive European strategies on health and safety at work have identified the need to prepare for these new circumstances, and emphasised that:
'anticipating new and emerging risks, whether they be linked to technical innovation or caused by social change, is vital if the risks are to be brought under control.
This requires, first and foremost, ongoing observation of the risks themselves, based on the systematic collection of information and scientific opinions.' (Community Strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006)
This strategy’s call on EU-OSHA to set up a European Risk Observatory to carry out these tasks was followed by the next Community Strategy 2007-2012, which emphasised the importance of risk anticipation, and asked the Agency’s Observatory to take on a range of initiatives.
The latest European strategy, the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020, continues this theme with a call to support the findings of the European Risk Observatory.
How the European Risk Observatory works
The ERO adds value by gathering and analysing information, putting it in context (in particular in relation to the European social agenda and the Community Strategy), looking for trends in order to 'anticipate change', and communicating the key issues effectively to our target audience: policy-makers and researchers. We also aim to stimulate debate and reflection among EU-OSHA's stakeholders and to provide a platform for debate between experts and policy-makers at various levels.
The information needed to identify new and emerging risks may come from a variety of sources, such as data from official registers, the research literature, expert forecasts or survey data. To cover all these potential sources of information, we organise our activities around three basic areas: