European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are inflammatory and/or degenerative ailments affecting all sectors and all categories of workers. The biggest Europe-wide occupational health survey found 46% of European workers reporting back pain, while 43% had painful shoulder, neck and upper limb muscles.

MSDs are by far the most common work-related health problem in Europe. The social and economic consequences of this “pandemic” are now becoming abundantly clear. Millions of workers are no longer able to do certain tasks or even have to stop work altogether before retirement age. Even though MSDs are firstly connected with biomechanical loads (loads, frequencies, repetitions, vibrations), they also are inextricably linked to forms of work organization and the general trend to an increased work-related cognitive, sensory and psychosocial load.

The legislative framework established by the EU to prevent this type of work risk is clearly not good enough. The European trade union movement has for many years been calling for a comprehensive directive on MSDs that takes the impact of work organization and psychosocial factors into account.

A draft directive was submitted to the European social partners in early 2010. In early 2013, the European Commission gave in to business organization lobbying and dropped the idea of a directive in favour of a simple non-binding recommendation.


Workers’ exposure to traditional physical risks remains high

23 February 2018

An extensive survey on working conditions in France reveals that workers are subject to substantial ‘physical stresses’ in their workplace, and that they have less and less autonomy at work.

Report on the recognition of MSDs as occupational diseases in 10 European countries

20 October 2016

A report published on 20 October by the French organisation Eurogip reviews the current situation regarding the recognition of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as occupational diseases in 10 European countries*.

The ETUC calls on the European Commission to tackle work-related musculoskeletal disorders

13 October 2016

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is calling on the European Commission to take practical measures to tackle musculoskeletal disorders in Europe. On 12 October, the trade union organisation stated in a press release that ‘The epidemic of back, shoulder, neck, elbow, hand and knee pain [is] costing workers severe loss of quality of life and millions of days off work.’

Psychosocial and musculoskeletal risk factors the most widespread in Europe’s workplaces

24 June 2015

Psychosocial and musculoskeletal risk factors are the most widespread in Europe’s workplaces, according to the Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2). The results of this survey — which collected responses from almost 50,000 workplaces — were unveiled on 23 June at the European Parliament.