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Time to move: Introducing the new Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load campaign

From bad posture to strained muscles, we are all at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) at work – which is why effective management and prevention is so critical. To raise awareness, EU-OSHA has launched the new Healthy Workplaces ‘Lighten the Load’ campaign to specifically focus on the issue. 

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The campaign – the first Healthy Workplaces campaign to span 2 full years – was launched on 12 October and will provide information, resources, events and best practice tips on how to protect workers by preventing and managing MSDs. The priority area for the first 3 months of the campaign is ‘prevention’, addressing how employers can implement preventive measures to protect workers and boost productivity. So, what can you expect from the campaign and how can you get involved?
Sprains, strains and pains: What are MSDs?
Since MSDs are the most common work-related health complaint in Europe, affecting 3 in every 5 workers, they represent a significant burden for businesses and employees alike. 
While backache (43%) is the most common form of MSD, the condition can affect all areas of the body. Muscular pain in the upper (41%) and lower (29%) body also affects a large section of the workforce. 
MSDs can affect workers in any sector – from those involved in sedentary work, such as office-based jobs, to manual labour that requires heavy lifting or moving, for instance in manufacturing or construction. Healthcare, hairdressing and education are also sectors that will be focused on within this campaign. And certain groups of workers are more at risk. According to EU-OSHA’s research, women, migrant workers and older workers have a greater chance of developing an MSD-based issue. 
The recent European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER 2019) found that repetitive hand or arm movements, reported by 64% of workplaces, prolonged sitting (60%) and lifting or moving heavy loads (51%) are among the top risk factors when it comes to the development of MSDs. What’s more, the issue of work-related MSDs is not solely focused on personal health. There is also a business case for preventing the health condition, since musculoskeletal disorders represent one of the most common causes of sick leave in the EU. Workers with MSDs are more likely to be absent from work and, on average, are also absent for a longer period of time, according to a 2019 EU-OSHA report. By managing and preventing MSDs, businesses can ensure that their workforce is healthier, less absent and more productive.
Getting involved with the campaign
To address the various elements of preventing and managing MSDs, the 2-year campaign will be split into a number of priority areas, which will be focused on in turn. These include prevention, the business case for managing MSDs, chronic conditions, sedentary work, MSDs and diversity, the future generation of workers, psychosocial risks and MSDs, and teleworking. This final priority area is especially crucial in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The dramatic rise in remote working has increased the risk of workers developing an MSD, since many home offices are not ergonomically optimised. 
The EU press conference and launch of the campaign took place on 12 October and the following months and years will be filled with many useful and inspiring events. Most notably, this includes the European Week for Safety and Health at Work, taking place between 19 and 23 October 2020, which will address the topic of MSDs at Member State level. 
So why wait? Now is the perfect time to get involved. There are many useful materials you can use to learn more about the topic and help promote the campaign message. Take a look at the new campaign website, the campaign leaflet, relevant publications, OSHwiki articles and Napo films and other tools and resources, to find out more. Don’t forget, you can also follow the campaign on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest information.