The 15th Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards recognised outstanding and innovative approaches to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) prevention and management in the workplace. Of the eight winners, we feature four organisations that not only demonstrated excellent training and awareness-raising initiatives, but did so within an MSD prevention culture based on risk assessment and good ergonomics.
Germany: Software development firm creates MSDs safety toolbox
With the vast majority of SAP employees performing desk-based work, exposure to ergonomic problems and the resulting MSDs was accounting for nearly 10% of all cases of incapacity to work. A Safety Toolbox was developed to raise awareness of the importance of good ergonomics and MSD prevention. Featuring a user-friendly interface, the Safety Toolbox contains resources such as training materials, instructional videos and safety checks.
To support managers, the Safety Compass function tracks and provides guidance on occupational safety and health (OSH) activities. Taking this holistic and proactive approach has meant employee awareness and engagement on the issue on MSD prevention has significantly increased. For example, the Safety Toolbox has been accessed around 13,700 times.
Austria: An age-sensitive approach for hospital support staff
600 support staff, with an average age of 50 years, perform vital but physically strenuous tasks at University Hospital Vienna, including transporting patients and cleaning premises. Interventions were required to preserve and promote a safe work environment for staff of all ages. Surveys and workshops were set up to obtain feedback from the workers on MSD risk factors and involve them in identifying solutions.
A wide range of preventive measures were adopted, including new back-friendly equipment, safety footwear and training courses. Health promotion topics included healthy eating, stretching and stress management. Mixed-generation cleaning teams were established to better share the workload and provide mentoring for new recruits. The project led to improved self-confidence and team spirit, as this often under-represented group of hospital workers were able to influence positive change, and protect their ability to work as they age.
Slovenia: Protecting mental and physical health at insurance company
Zavarovalnica Triglav sought to implement measures to prevent and manage MSDs, as well as encourage healthy habits, in the office and at home. Employee awareness and training initiatives included instruction on ergonomic workplace arrangements, active lifestyles, healthy spine and movement workshops, and building resistance to stress and burnout.
Improved psychological support for workers, as well as personalised equipment assessments were other aspects of the project. By rooting health promotion measures in prevention, with strong leadership, sick leave decreased by 4% between 2019 and 2020, and employee motivation was improved.
Lithuania: Promoting ergonomic working postures for fishing equipment manufacturers
UAB Vonin was experiencing high levels of staff turnover as manual processes to manufacture fishing equipment was putting stress on workers’ shoulders, arms and hands. Physiotherapists and ergonomics specialists were consulted to help identify risks and preventive measures to lighten the load.
Team leaders attended ergonomics training to enable them to support operators with their working positions and to rotate tasks to avoid fatigue. Creating new routine practice, special attention is now given to OSH risk factors during induction training and in-house control activities. Involving operators and swiftly responding to new risk factors has improved job satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.
Each case study demonstrates practical ways to raise awareness of MSD prevention and risk assessment in the workplace. Consistent with all four examples is the long term, sustainable impact these initiatives have had at all levels of the organisation, creating safer and healthier places to work.
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