How should employers tackle work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)? That’s the question the European Commission is asking both workers and employers as it puts a call out throughout the European Union (EU) seeking input regarding how best to curb the problem of workplace MSDs.
According to the European Commission, MSDs are currently the greatest safety and health problems facing workers in Europe. Studies, said the Commission, have shown that MSDs affect over 40 million workers in all industries in the EU and that MSDs presently account for up to 50 percent of all work-related health problems in European countries. Additionally, the Commission blames MSDs for “eroding Europe’s competitiveness” and for losses to the gross national product (GNP).
The reason for the high rates of MSDs? Said the Commission, they’re the result of poor ergonomic conditions in the workplace, which may also be contributing to other workplace problems including a loss of production, increased insurance costs, staffing shortages and turnover, increased absenteeism and training costs, and a decrease in the quality of work.
What the Commission wants now are answers from workers and employers to help it determine the best course to take in tackling work-related MSDs, whether through regulation or otherwise; currently legislation does exist in the EU that covers worker health and safety but, said the Commission, it does not specifically apply to workplace MSDs. Some individual EU Member States, however, do have existing laws that address workplace MSDs.
Worker groups and employer groups are now being asked whether they would prefer new community legislation, voluntary compliance measures or some sort of combination of the two in respect to MSD prevention. Additionally, the Commission is also seeking feedback on how to focus future preventive measures, either by addressing ergonomics, work organization or psychosocial concerns.