Despite efforts to prevent them, MSDs remain at the top of the list of work-related health problems in Europe, and often occur in combination with other health problems. This inevitably reduces individuals’ quality of life and capacity to work, damaging businesses and economies.
Absence from work due to MSDs accounts for a high proportion of working days lost in the EU. Workers with MSDs also have longer periods of absence on average than those without health problems.
Work-related MSDs are one of the most common causes of disability and sick leave and are the most commonly recognised occupational disease in countries including France, Italy, Latvia and Spain.
A third of workers with MSDs and another health issue believe that they will not be able to continue doing their job to the age of 60 years.
In addition, MSDs cause individuals to be less productive while at work, with higher rates of ‘presenteeism’, that is, working while unwell, among those with MSDs than those without health problems.
This has a major impact in economic terms. Direct costs of work-related MSDs include resources used for health care (diagnosis and treatment of disease, and rehabilitation expenditure) and medicines, and workers’ compensation costs. Indirect costs include those resulting from disruptions to working teams, decreases in productivity, production delays and the replacement of sick workers (including the training of new employees), and costs related to absenteeism/presenteeism. These indirect costs are estimated to be several times higher than the direct costs for businesses.
It is vital, therefore, that employers are made aware of the issue and offered support and guidance in preventing or managing MSDs.