Brussels, December 2013
European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs organised this ergonomics-related event.
The work related
musculo-skeletal disorders (WRMSD) are well known by OSH specialists
and are defined by WHO (EU-OSHA 2010). The risk factors are many:
physical, organisational and individual. The increasing burden of MSD
is important and expensive not only for the workers but also for the
enterprises and for the society.
Many workers are
suffering from MSD as still shown by the last European Working
Condition Survey (EWCS) of 2010 (Eurofound): nearly one in two are
suffering of low back pain, four in ten of muscular pain in upper
limbs and one in three in lower limbs. MSD affect workers in all
sectors, men and women and are increasing with age. This EWCS 2010
shows that a lot of work constraints are existing with a high
percentage of workers exposed to these constraints, and especially to
Even if it is
difficult for each enterprise to evaluate costs of MSD, these costs
are often very high and can be divided in direct cost (absenteeism,
loss of productivity and/or of quality, increasing of the workload
for the colleagues not yet suffering of a MSD…) and indirect costs
(loss of knowledge, of skills, turn-over…) which can be estimated
to 2 to 3 times the direct costs. For example, a report on
absenteeism in Belgium evaluates the cost of one absence day to 924€.
This report shows that the absenteeism is increasing more and more
each year, with on average 6 days of absence per worker and per day
for a total annual cost in Belgium estimated to 10.8 Billion €.
The costs for the
society are also very high and increasing: health care, disabled
people, occupational diseases compensation…Examples taken in
France, in Belgium and in Netherlands show the main part taken by MSD
in occupational diseases. From the EU-OSHA report 2010, MSD
represented nearly 40% of occupational diseases in Europe in 2005.
To help people and
especially the enterprises to realize this incredible burden of MSD
linked to the working conditions, we need a specific legislation to
give more visibility to MSD. But more essentially we need an European
OSH strategy to prevent MSD for the workers not yet affected, to
allow workers already suffering of MSD to stay longer at work but
also to help people to come back to work after a long absence due to
MSD. An ergonomic approach of the prevention ie a global approach of
all the risk factors, with the workers’ participation to better
adapt the working conditions seems the only solution to get an
effective MSD prevention.