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OptimaSteel project to improve wellbeing in the steel industry

The OptimaSteel project, which aims to enhance the wellbeing of older workers in the steel industry, is coming to an end in April after two years of successful implementation. Following consultation with steelworkers, the project has identified holistic solutions to improve their occupational safety and health (OSH) in key areas, including ergonomics, physical training and stress management.

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Launched in June 2019, OptimaSteel has been led by the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting in collaboration with The Groupe PSA, both of which are Healthy Workplaces Official Campaign Partners. The project aimed to understand the OSH implications of demographic change to identify holistic solutions that would improve the quality of life of older workers.

The centrepiece of this project was a questionnaire, which aimed to gauge the opinions of steelworkers aged 50 and above to understand more about their workplace needs and requirements. The questionnaire covered four pillars; workplace ergonomics, stress management, physical training and nutritional balance, all of which are key to maintaining safe and healthy workplaces.

The results found that steelworkers are exposed to a vast quantity of OSH risks on a daily basis, including long periods of standing, repetitive movements, carrying heavy loads in hot environments and exposure to harmful chemical substances. The project recognised that these risks cannot be mitigated by one single technology or development, so instead it promoted an extensive list of holistic solutions to protect workers from the physical, ergonomic, nutritional and stress management factors.

Although the implementation of these solutions has been impacted by Covid-19, OptimaSteel has still been able to promote these solutions to steelworkers through traditional communication, such as posters, as well as recommending the use of relevant mobile applications. Initial indications show that most workers have felt improvements in their health and wellbeing.

In particular, the information surrounding ergonomic risks has been highly valuable for companies in the steel industry and the results of the project will influence decision-making at plant level to prevent older workers from developing or aggravating musculoskeletal conditions.