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European Trade Union Confederation calls on the EU to end MSD ‘plague’

The European Union and national governments should do more to help safety and health representatives tackle musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has said.

According to the organisation, which represents workers at EU level, “there have been reports from trade unions that existing rights to consultation with workers are often ignored, and safety and health enforcement agencies are failing to take action to rectify this”.

The ETUC highlights a consultation that the European Commission ran in 2007 on whether the European social partners thought more could be done to prevent workers contracting MSDs and the appropriateness of the existing legal framework, which covers manual handling and the use of display screen equipment. 

It concluded there was a need to “improve European workers' protection against exposure to risks that may result in work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The current individual directives do not cover all types of work situations or address all risk factors leading to work-related musculoskeletal disorders.”

However, progress on proposing a new legislative initiative addressing all significant risk factors of work-related MSDs and requirements for protecting workers from exposure to these was suspended pending a review of EU directives in 2014-15. 

“Nothing has happened since,” said the ETUC. “No further action has been taken.” 

Esther Lynch, ETUC general secretary, said: “The EU needs to act to enforce existing legislation and if necessary take new measures to end the costly plague of back, neck and shoulder pain. What is needed is proper risk assessment and involvement of workers and their safety reps in all workplaces. 

“The European Union cannot brush this under the carpet in the name of better regulation. What working people need is better protection and enforcement of at least existing legislation.” 

The ETUC, in collaboration with the European Trade Union Institute, has produced infographic posters to encourage workers and trade unions safety and health reps to raise the issue of MSDs. They were launched at the European Conference on Ergonomics, which took place in Brussels on 26 and 27 June. 

View the posters here or download them: 


Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine

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