Supervisor, promote musculoskeletal health at the workplace

You have several means for promoting your employees’ musculoskeletal (MSK) health. Make use of ergonomics solutions for developing work, early support, and work accommodation.

Make use of ergonomics

Ergonomics helps you to plan work methods, tools and the working environment to suit people who use them. By applying ergonomics, you can develop work together at the workplace so that it not only flows well, but also promotes your employees’ functional capacity and work ability while at the same time preventing possible symptoms or disorders. Actively participate in ongoing development work or projects in your workplace. Involve your employees and encourage them to bring out their own experiences and ideas to support this work.

If your employee develops musculoskeletal symptoms, you should start using work accommodation measures. These measures are supported by ergonomics solutions related to, for example, ways of working, tools, and flexible working time. It is your duty to make sure that you accommodate the employee’s work to match their work ability. This allows you to support them to continue working, make it easier for them to return to work after sick leave and prevent the recurrence of symptoms. Your occupational health partner and especially your occupational health physiotherapist can help you in this.

Assess and manage physical workload

A workplace survey of the physical workload includes identifying the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular strain caused by the work and assessing their impact on employees work ability and health. Occupational health professionals assess the significance of the strain for your employees’ work ability and health. Participate actively in the workplace surveys carried out by the occupational health services and make use of the recommendations for measures given based on them. That allows you to improve working conditions and reduce physical workload factors at your workplace.

It is particularly important to assess the physical workload 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 workplace surveys, you will plan, together with the occupational health services or ergonomics specialists, the measures to manage the harmful workload. By using ergonomics and collaborating with the occupational health services, you can improve working conditions and build a way of working that supports musculoskeletal (MSK) health.

Supervisor’s means for promoting MSK health at the workplace

  1. Get to know your employees’ work and working conditions.  
  2. Actively participate in identifying and reducing the physical workload factors especially when the occupational health services are carrying out workplace surveys. 
    • Find out what the physical workload factors at your workplace are.  
    • Find out how you can reduce or manage workloads that hinder smooth workflow and are harmful for the employees’ work ability and health.
  3. Make the principles of ergonomics part of normal work development. 
    • Systematically develop the work and working conditions in order to avoid excessive or recurrent strain.  
    • Make sure that the employees have the possibility to influence the amount and pace of their work to some degree.  
  4. Involve employees in developing the work and the working conditions. 
  5. Make sure that everyone receives sufficient orientation and other training which also addresses the physical workload factors and ways of working that support functional capacity and work ability.
  6. Take the workload factors and symptoms seriously also when the work gets done despite them. 
  7. Incorporate supporting musculoskeletal health into the early support activities.
    • Be sure that you know your workplace’s early support practices and address your employee’s excessive workload as early as possible.  
    • Ask the occupational health services for support whenever you feel that you need it. 
  8. Make use of work accommodation measures. They enable you to make it easier for employees to return to work after sick leave and prevent the symptoms from recurring.
    • Together, build guidelines and good practices for work accommodation. 
    • Make sure you have the mandate to accommodate your employees’ work. 
  9. Together, set practical and easy-to-monitor targets for promoting musculoskeletal health at the workplace.