Research

Why are work-related musculoskeletal injuries still so prevalent?

A major research review commissioned by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has found that despite the increasing focus on risk reduction measures in work safety laws and practices over the last 20 years there has been little reduction of the musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).  It also found the growing awareness that psychosocial factors affect MSD rates has not been matched by risk assessment and prevention processes.

The researchers, from the UK's Institute of Occupational Medicine, were trying to work out why reported rates of MSDs in the working populations of the European Union increased between 2007 and 2013, and plateaued, at best, by 2015.

In their 69-page report, they identify 12 hypotheses for the costly problem, including that: new technologies have increased MSD risks or merely shifted them to other sectors, or even other parts of the body; new forms of employment like online gig arrangements have reduced workers' access to safety protections; and many employers are failing to comply with legislative requirements around excessively repetitive tasks, awkward postures and heavy lifting. 

The researchers concluded that risk assessment tools and risk reduction measures must be adapted to assess both MSDs and psychosocial risks in one assessment.
Read more: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders: why are they still so prevalent? Evidence from a literature review, European Risk Observatory, EU-OSHA, May 2020 [pdf] Source: OHSAlert

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