Campaign 2020-2022

End of a successful SLIC campaign on MSDs inspection

The Senior Labour Inspectors Committee (SLIC) working group EMEX (WG EMEX) has concluded the inspection campaign on risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), marking a successful end of a campaign with more than 2600 inspections carried out in 26 EU member states and Norway.

The SLIC campaign on MSDs inspection was carried out from March to end of August 2022. The aim of the campaign was to promote occupational safety and health (OSH) risk assessment and broaden the knowledge of EU labour inspectors about work-related MSDs and their prevention. All the participating countries reported on a total of 2621 implemented inspectionsNational project managers also delivered the final national reports providing information on

  • training inspectors to inspect OSH matters regarding MSDs,
  • interactions with the national focal points,
  • workers' participation in the risk assessments,
  • good practices and how they are implemented at the workplace, and
  • influence of the inspection on national priorities.

A summary of the preliminary results of the campaign was presented on the 14 and 15 November at the Healthy Workplaces Summit, organised by EU-OSHA in Bilbao. Members of the WG EMEX participated in Session 1 'Inspection of MSDs prevention in enterprises - challenges and innovative solutions', for which recordings are available here and presentations from the session can be downloaded here.

The success of the campaign relied on the motivated participation of the national project members and the time invested by labour inspectors in the different national labour inspectorates.

The final report of the campaign will be presented at the SLIC Plenary in May 2023 in Stockholm, Sweden and will be published on the CIRCABC website, where all the documents of the campaign are available. 

OSH risks! Digital platforms and teleworking during the global pandemic - New language versions available

As a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of workers across Europe and beyond have been required to stay home and work from there, making of teleworking a long-term possibility in many companies.

Teleworking has helped businesses evolve and survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has put workers at greater risk of musculoskeletal disorders and mental health problems.

The Telework and health risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic report reviews the occupational safety and health issues associated with telework, and the measures and regulations in place to prevent and manage them. Changes to legislation and initiatives adopted are examined in Regulating telework in a post-COVID-19 Europe report.

Read also Digital platform work and occupational safety and health: a review, and find out examples of company practices on OSH and teleworking.

Participatory approach to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders - language versions available

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the most common work-related health problem in the European Union and lead to high costs to enterprises and society.

The key to reducing MSDs is the workers themselves who do the tasks and have the detailed knowledge and experience of how the job is done and how it affects them.

The Worker participation in the prevention of musculoskeletal risks at work Summary, now in more language versions, proposes methods to actively involve workers in preventing MSDs and includes practical examples, factors and conditions that are necessary for effective worker participation.

Also available is the Participatory ergonomics and preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace discussion paper that presents case studies on using participatory ergonomics to reduce musculoskeletal disorder risks in the workplace.

Check our OSH Wiki Carrying out participatory ergonomics article and explore the Lighten the Load priority area Prevention

Healthy Workplaces Summit 2022

Euskalduna Conference Centre, Bilbao

Leading European experts and decision makers gathered in Bilbao on 14 and 15 November for a two-day conference to reflect on the outcomes of the Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load 2020-22 campaign and share insight on the future of musculoskeletal...

Healthy Workplaces Summit 2022: Roundup and impressions

Powerful insights on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from top-level experts and decision-makers made EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Summit 2022 engaging and impactful. Held in Bilbao on 14 and 15 November and attracting more than 400 participants, the conference showed how much the ‘Lighten the Load’ campaign has helped to raise awareness about MSDs, which affect three in every five workers in the EU.

The digitalisation of work: its impact on psychosocial risk factors and work-related musculoskeletal disorders

The digitalisation of the economy has already considerably changed the nature and organisation of work across Europe. In the next ten years, more than half of Europe’s workforce will face significant job transitions.How can occupational safety and health policies, and particularly those preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), adapt accordingly?  

Emerging OSH challenges in a changing world of work 

The digitalisation of the economy has brought about the spread of robotisation, new forms of work (for example remote work) and new forms of employment (such as digital platform work). With these changes come new and emerging occupational safety and health (OSH) challenges, altering the exposure workers have to the various biomechanical, organisational and psychosocial risk factors for work-related MSDs.  

It is possible for increased automation to reduce physical and psychosocial workloads, but there is evidence that the opposite is occurring. In some work situations, it leads to an increase in task repetitiveness, pace of work, physical fatigue, cognitive workload and psychosocial demands. Key factors being the permanent electronic monitoring and surveillance of workers’ performance, and when algorithms set tasks and time targets. This can result in workers working too fast, or for too long, or cutting corners in terms of their safety, for example not following safe lifting procedures.   

The proportion of workers experiencing cognitive overload, cognitive and physical fatigue, and various forms of ‘technostress’ will increase if attention is not given to planning substantive, human-centred work as digitalisation changes occur. The 2022 OSH Pulse Report revealed that digital technologies controlled the pace of work for over half of respondents, 37% said that they increase their workload, a third said that they increase surveillance and a fifth that they reduce their work autonomy. Given the established link between MSDs and PSRs, this will need to be factored into MSD prevention policies. 

 

Identifying new opportunities for MSD prevention 

There is, however, opportunity for digitalisation to enhance MSD prevention, depending on how the technology is implemented, managed and regulated. The development of suitable tools or procedures to monitor all specific risks related to digitalisation (including virtual work, telework and flexible working patterns) will be required. The key is human-centred design from the start, where human abilities are enhanced and humans remain in control, not the technologies. Technologies can also support risk prevention, such as a risk assessment app, enabling teleworkers to carry out remote checks on their workstation.  

Further opportunities include reducing physically demanding, repetitive or routine tasks through the use of exoskeletons, robots and cobots. In the case of robots, it is important that the robot collaborates with the human, and does not just leave the workers with the mundane, often highly repetitive tasks. Also, there is potential to provide higher levels of autonomy and flexibility, reduction in commuting time thanks to teleworking, and better access to the labour market for ageing workers, disabled workers and those with care responsibilities at home. Although this will only be possible if OSH is considered as an integral part of the process of introducing digital changes to work. In one good practice example, technologies introduced to reduce the physical load on the workers could enable the work to be speeded up. But the employer decided against this to avoid worker stress. 

 

Collaborating with a new digital workforce  

These workplace changes, such as not being on the same site, means effective communication is more important than ever. Participatory interventions, ensuring the workforce understands how digital technologies are used and how they can result in high demands, is essential. If such policies are embedded in a strong prevention-oriented corporate culture, this will help ensure their success.  

 
Prevention and management of psychosocial risks and MSDs need to be continuously adapted to the evolution of digital technologies and organisational changes. Innovative intervention designs should be promoted to adapt them to the diverse, dispersed and evolving populations working in ever-changing environments. 

 
Discover more about the findings and resources of the OSH Overview on Digitalisation 2020-2023, which will form the basis of the upcoming Healthy Workplaces campaign: ‘Safe and healthy work in the digital age’  

Additional EU-OSHA research relevant to this area includes the Foresight studies and the OSH Overview on Supporting Compliance.   

You can also search for case studies relevant to psychosocial risks, teleworking and more.    

Follow the #EUhealthyworkplaces campaign on social media via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for campaign updates until the end of November.  

 

1. McKinsey Global Institute, 2020

MSDs and psychosocial risk factors. Executive summary and discussion papers language versions available

There is clear evidence that psychosocial risk factors play a causal role in the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. The executive summary - Musculoskeletal disorders: association with psychosocial risk factors at work - now available in more language versions, examines the evidence for the association between psychosocial risk factors and MSDs and provides recommendations for effective approaches to prevent MSDs.

Once MSDs have developed, the return-to-work process should be supported by a multidisciplinary approach involving various professionals and experts.

According to the discussion paper, Return to work after MSD-related sick leave in the context of psychosocial risks at work, the important factors for a successful return to work include a holistic risk assessment of physical and psychosocial risks, a planned return-to-work programme, involving the worker in the process, and a positive and supportive working environment.

Learn also about the effect of digitalisation on psychosocial and physical risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.