Employer, support employees’ musculoskeletal health

As an employer, it is your statutory obligation to take care of your employees’ safety and health at work. This also includes supporting their musculoskeletal (MSK) health. You will succeed by creating good working conditions and supporting your employees if they develop symptoms or disorders.

Make use of ergonomics

Work has undergone a dramatic change over the past few decades, while also becoming physically lighter. The changes concern the job content, ways of working and how work is organised. However, roughly 30% of work tasks are physically strenuous. In addition, knowledge requirements and the use of information and communications technology have increased in many physically strenuous jobs, with, for example, the advancement of work being monitored and controlled using information technology. These changes affect not only your employees’ well-being but also your company’s productivity and competitiveness, and thus the whole of society.

You can use several good means to promote and maintain employees’ MSK health. By applying ergonomics, you can design work, tools, and the working environment to match the characteristics of different individuals. By doing this, you can ensure that work flows well, promotes your employees’ functional capacity and work ability, and prevents possible symptoms or disorders. This also allows you to avoid unnecessary costs.

If your employee develops musculoskeletal symptoms after all, you may want to implement work accommodation measures to individual tasks. Also, here you can use ergonomics solutions related to, for example, ways of working, tools and flexible working time. By accommodating your employee’s work based on their work ability, you can support them to continue working, make it easier for them to return to work from a sick leave and prevent the recurrence of symptoms. Work accommodation is also part of the continuous improvement of working conditions.

Using ergonomics and collaborating with the occupational health services, you can develop work and build a workplace practice that supports musculoskeletal (MSK) health.

Promote MSK health and manage work ability

Promoting MSK health is part of your company’s work ability management. You can promote MSK health by developing competence, ways of working, workspaces, equipment, and tools at the workplace.

Read about work ability management

    1. Evaluate systematically what aspects in the work cause strain. 

    2. Apply the principles of ergonomics in your company and make them part of normal work design. Think about ways to systematically improve the work and working conditions so that excessive or monotonous strain can be avoided. 

    3. Involve supervisors and employees in improving the work and the working conditions. 

    4. Build competence on workload factors and healthy and safe ways of working by including them in orientation and other training programmes. 

    5. Take the workload factors and MSK symptoms seriously also when the work gets done despite them. 

    6. Make supporting MSK health part of your company’s early support activities. Ensure that your company’s supervisors and employees identify harmful workload factors, address them, and receive support from the occupational health services as early as possible when symptoms appear. 

    7. Support supervisory work and make use of work accommodation measures. This allows you to make it easier for employees to return to work after sick leave and prevent the symptoms from recurring. 

    8. Together, set concrete and easy-to-monitor targets for promoting musculoskeletal health at your workplace. 

Assess and manage physical workload

It is your duty to assess the level of physical workload caused by the work performed in your company. Ask the occupational health services for help. Assessing the physical workload means identifying the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular strain caused by the work as part of the workplace survey. Occupational health professionals assess the significance of the strain for your employees’ work ability and health.

The assessment is particularly important in tasks that involve recurrent or prolonged

  • manual handling of loads
  • static muscle work, for example working with elevated arms
  • repetitive work movements or sustained postures
  • work phases that require the use of strength
  • vibration affecting the whole body or the hands and arms
  • psychosocial workload factors, such as high demands, few opportunities to influence and poor support from the work community and the supervisor.

Based on the assessment, you will plan, together with the occupational health services or ergonomics professionals, the measures to manage the workload. Implementing them is your responsibility.

Ensure that workspaces are accessible

When designing and developing workspaces, it is your duty to ensure their accessibility in terms of both entering the workspaces and working in them. Accessibility is part of the sustainable development of the physical work environment. It means taking into account people’s diversity and designing for all. When your workplace is accessible, you can hire employees on an equal basis, focussing on their competence and capabilities. Good ergonomics solutions and accessibility benefit everyone: they bring flexibility and reduce the need for tailored solutions at workstations and in workspaces when employees’ work ability changes. An accessible environment is accessible for all.