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Prevention of work-related Musculoskeletal Diseases

What possibilities are available in the workplace?

The possibilities for preventing muscoskeletal diseases (MSDs) in the world of work are manifold. They include advising and training as well as workplace-related measures.

The MSDs involved are those directly caused by work, those for which work is a contributory factor, and those affecting employees at work notwithstanding of their cause. Primary, secondary and tertiary preventive approaches are useful, as are behavioural and organisational preventive approaches, and can be taken into account in company health management systems.

The following action fields are important for the prevention of MSDs:

  • healthy design of working conditions - ergonomics, implementation of complex risk assessments for detecting and evaluating workload to the musculoskeletal system, including the derivation of workplace-related, organisational, and employee-related measures;
  • collective advice, training and instruction of employees on working conditions in which workload to the musculoskeletal system can occur;
  • individual advice for employees focussing on the musculoskeletal system and for the early detection of individual risk factors such as diet and sport, for example in the framework of occupational healthcare; utilisation of (occupational) rehabilitation measures;
  • individually adapted health promotion measures, for example, exercise programmes (including health education concepts);
  • workplace integration programmes; employment concepts for older persons and persons with chronic diseases;
  • design and further development of participative social relationships in the workplace; employee management.

Prevention campaign of the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA)

The prevention of MSDs is a component of the current working programme of the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA). Under the title "Prävention macht stark - auch Deinen Rücken" ("Prevention makes you strong - your back as well"), the MSD working programme addresses employees, companies and managers. The programme is also aimed at multipliers, for example specialists for occupational safety, company doctors and workforce representatives. There are many suggestions here on how prevention in a workplace setting can be arranged. These include backgrounds, examples of good practice, products and events. The contents of the DGUV campaign "Denk an mich. Dein Rücken" ("Don't forget me. Your back") can be found here, too.

Projects in the framework of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) model programme

In the BMAS's model programme the projects "KoBRA", "naprima" and "PAKT" were supported from 2007 to 2010 in the framework of the core area "Belastungen des Muskel-Skelett-Systems bei der Arbeit - integrative Präventionsansätze praktisch umsetzen" ("Load on the musculoskeletal system during work - practical realisation of integrative prevention approaches"). The focus of the three model projects was on activities with high physical workload. In this context, repetitive manual work processes, working in a constrained posture, working with increased physical exertion, handling loads and the effects of mechanical vibrations were of particular interest. When prevention concepts are drawn up, complex relationships to further aspects such as work organisation, psychosocial factors, etc., should be taken into consideration. Model concepts for the innovative and integrative design of the prevention of work-related MSDs should be worked out and tested.

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