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Breaking down the barriers to effectively tackling MSDs

While musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can be efficiently managed and prevented, there are still barriers to an even more effective approach. Given their prevalence, addressing and removing these barriers could lead to a significant reduction in the number of work-related MSDs. But how can MSD-focused policies be implemented at national level to support businesses? 

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Identifying and eliminating obstacles to implementation 


For many companies, the barriers to a greater focus on workplace MSDs include a lack of time or resources, a lack of communication and coordination, the absence of top-level commitment, and the need for more specialised knowledge and training. It is often the case that these barriers cannot be addressed by businesses alone and require the support of effective MSD-focused policies and strategies.  


By implementing a unified and holistic national MSD prevention strategy, European countries can provide businesses with the capacity, commitment and resources they need to successfully reduce instances of MSDs among the workforce and become safer, healthier and more productive companies. 


Taking action at national level 


There are a number of highly effective policy approaches that can form part of the national prevention strategy. One such approach concerns the reinforcement of safe and healthy practices through positive incentivisation. In 2018, the Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL) launched an ‘ISI’ incentive scheme, which provided Italian businesses with non-repayable grants of up to 65% of the project’s cost, to a maximum of €130,000.  


Construction companies, for example, used the funding to purchase machinery for mechanising manual operations, such as forklift and pallet trucks, electric stair climbers, wheelbarrows and mini-dumpers. Through this incentivisation, the scheme supported companies in adopting the most-effective measures for reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.  


Another example comes from Sweden, where, in 2016, the Swedish Work Environment Authority (SWEA) provided recommendations to expand and develop the country’s approach to tackling musculoskeletal disorders. One recommendation in particular focused on widening the scope of risk assessments to include physical, organisational, and psychosocial risk factors. Viewing the issue of MSDs through a broader perspective can help to protect all workers in different scenarios from the associated risks. 


It has also been proven that adopting a policy of collaboration among partners can be productive in addressing the causes of MSDs in the workplace. In Germany, the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA) is an example of such collaboration, uniting the federal government, the federal states, and the accident insurance institutions to help companies strengthen workplace safety and health and successfully tackle issues such as MSDs.  


For more statistical information on the benefits of tackling work-related MSDs, read our previous article on the business case for managing MSDs and visit the facts and figures priority area of the Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load campaign. You can also learn more about prevention strategies and the regulatory framework for the prevention of MSDs through OSHwiki. Finally, be sure to follow the campaign on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn for further updates.