NSC Labor Division news Ergonomics Musculoskeletal disorders Transportation Construction

Getting workers involved helps identify and solve MSD hazards, report shows

Photo: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

Bilbao, Spain — Employee participation in workplace interventions that target musculoskeletal disorders “strengthens the possibility for identification of the most relevant health problems,” according to a new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

In the report, EU-OSHA examines best practices of participatory ergonomics in multiple industry sectors, including construction, agriculture, transportation, and wholesale and retail trade. Because workers are “experts concerning the practicalities of their work, they will have ideas about how to improve work to reduce the risk of MSDs,” the report states.

Workplace interventions on MSDs “should progress through a series of steps or phases,” and workers can participate in each:

  • Assess risks to identify issues that need to be addressed.
  • Generate strategies to identify and develop possible solutions.
  • Implement solutions that cover the practical application of the solution.
  • Perform evaluations to inform whether solutions are working.
  • Integrate into operations to secure the sustainability of the solutions.

The report emphasizes that effective worker participation also hinges on support from management. This includes:

  • Commitment to and leadership on participatory MSD prevention and OSH management.
  • A blame-free and open dialogue culture on MSD prevention and OSH with workers and their representatives.
  • Worker participation as part of managers’ and supervisors’ daily responsibilities.

Previous agency research shows “worker participation consistently appears as a key factor for the successful identification of problems and implementation of practical solutions, regardless of the size or type of workplace or type of problem,” EU-OSHA says. “By getting involved in an issue at the planning stage, workers are more likely to identify the reasons for taking a particular action, help find practical solutions and comply with the end result.”

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