Occupational health

Protecting Workers' Health Series No. 5
Preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace

By Pr Alwin Luttmann, Pr Matthias Jäger, Pr Barbara Griefahn,

musculoskeletal disorders cover

Disorders of the musculoskeletal system represent a main cause for absence from occupational work. Musculoskeletal disorders lead to considerable costs for the public health system. Specific disorders of the musculoskeletal system may relate to different body regions and occupational work. For example, disorders in the lower back are often correlated to lifting and carrying of loads of to the application of vibration. Upper-limb disorders (at fingers, hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, neck) may result from repetitive or long-lasting static force exertion or may be intensified by such activities. The severity of these disorders may vary between occasional aches or pain to exactly diagnosed specific diseases. Occurrence of pain may be interpreted as the result of a reversible acute overloading or may be a pre-symptom for the beginning of a serious disease.

The purpose of this document on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders is to inform about the risk factors and to influence the actions of employers and the behavior of workers in such a way that risks of physical loadings, dangerous to health or unnecessarily fatiguing, are avoided or diminished. The document has been prepared in such a way that it can be used by employers, supervisors, and occupation health trainers when designing work and work environment or for preparing information materials and training programmes. In consequence, application of the guide should be helpful to reduce harm to individuals, to influence the efficiency of work positively, and reduce costs on the public health system.