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Promoting good musculoskeletal health in vocational schools

The OSHVET Project promotes occupational safety and health (OSH) culture among vocational schools. Run by EU-OSHA in collaboration with its national focal points, the European Association of Institutes for Vocational Training (EVBB) and the European Forum of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (EfVET), initiatives across 16 countries have covered topics such as ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) prevention. Here, we explore projects in Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. 

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Photo by PTTI EDU on Unsplash

Portugal: national advertising campaign to combat sedentary habits 

The initiative from Portugal seeks to combat sedentary lifestyles, often associated with an increased risk of developing or aggravating MSDs. Organised by the Portuguese focal point (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho), it explains how to move and stretch in order to combat these disorders. 

The flagship action of the initiative is the 2021-2022 national advertising campaign aimed at teachers and showing different stretch exercises that can be easily implemented in the classroom. The film, starring professional actress Bárbara Rosa, was scripted and supervised by vocational education students and teachers. They were also involved as actors. The film was recently broadcast in the European Parliament as part of the ‘Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load’ campaign. 


Spain: call for audio-visual works created by vocational education students 

In Spain, vocational education students were first encouraged to submit their video pieces on the topic of safety and health at work in 2021. A special emphasis was put on the topics of body care and hygiene, as well as good postural habits and ergonomics, highlighting the positive impact of those in both the physical and mental health and wellbeing of vocational education and training (VET) students. 

The awarded short films were screened during the ‘Healthy Workplaces: VET lightens the loads’ virtual conference organised by the Spanish focal point (Instituto Nacional de Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo) during the 2021 edition of the European Week for Safety and Health at Work

The second edition of the call for audio-visual works, which focuses on MSD prevention, is currently taking place. All Spanish vocational education and training schools can participate and the deadline to submit the short films is on 5 October. 


Netherlands: three actions to ensure safe and healthy work in vocational education 

The Dutch focal point (TNO Prevention, Work & Health), along with the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, carry out numerous actions in the context of the OSHVET Project. With the ‘Safe and healthy work in vocational education’ campaign, they promote adding courses to the curriculum that help VET students identify occupational risks and learn to protect their own safety and that of their colleagues. 

As a part of the Dutch Ministry’s Campaign on ‘Safe work with hazardous substances’, in line with EU-OSHA’s 2018-2019 campaign ‘Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’, the ‘College Tours’ initiative took place. It sought to raise awareness on the topic of dangerous substances, along with physical strain and fair work among VET students by offering theoretical and practical information, real-life examples, and quiz questions. The tour travelled the country between 2019 and 2021 and the experience was published in a step-by-step guide, allowing other schools to replicate the initiative. 

Also by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and TNO, is their work to promote the importance of caring for one’s mental health and overcoming the associated stigma. The project was developed using the ‘design sprint methodology’. This consisted of collaborating with other stakeholders and the students themselves to build a project and test it in a limited amount of time – usually five days.   


In sharing these (and similar) initiatives through the OSHVET project, they can be replicated in other schools and countries. Furthermore, by mainstreaming OSH and MSD prevention in the curriculum and culture of vocational schools, current students (future professionals) will benefit from the very beginning of their working lives and they will be able to have a healthier and more sustainable career, with less risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. 

Learn more about the benefits of mainstreaming OSH into education

Further information on EU-OSHA's resources for students and younger people can be found in the Future Generations Priority Area.    

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