Press release, 10 October 2007

Musculoskeletal disorders still the most widespread work-related diseases

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) remain the most common work-related diseases, according to a new comparative report 'Managing musculoskeletal disorders' published by Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO). The results, which constitute the first secondary study based on the Foundation’s 4th European Working Conditions Survey, will be presented at a conference on MSDs to be held in Lisbon on October 11-12.

MSDs - like backache or muscular pain of the shoulders, neck or limbs - are the most often reported symptoms of work-related ill health. The report found that MSDs were associated with strenuous working conditions and physical strain, such as tiring and painful working positions, repetitive movements, carrying heavy loads and poorly designed workstations. Work intensification and stress lead to increased occurrences of MSDs. Surprisingly, job rotation and team working are also associated with a higher incidence of MSDs. Lean production models require workers to perform repetitive tasks at a higher work pace, resulting in a higher prevalence of MSDs.

Enhanced autonomy over working methods, work pace and choice of breaks is associated with a reduction of MSDs. The risk is lowered where there is training provided by employers and consultation about working conditions and about organisational factors.

MSDs are differently defined in different Member States, making it tricky to investigate their prevalence or to establish Europe-wide trends. Some definitions refer to body parts, like WRULD (work-related upper limb disorders), while others refer to causes, like RSI (repetitive strain injuries). Moreover, there is a lack of homogenous data or standards in monitoring MSDs. Relatively few countries report on the direct costs of MSDs like sick leave and disability benefits or indirect costs like lost productivity. The study outlines good practice, of interest to policy-makers, employers and workers alike.

The report will be presented to European social policy-makers at a high-level conference, under the auspices of the Portuguese EU Presidency, in Lisbon on 11-12 October 2007. Journalists are invited to the event, which will be opened by Paulo Morgado de Carvalho, Inspector General of the Portuguese Working Conditions Authority, Jorma Karppinen, the Foundation’s Director, and Antonio Cammarota, the European Commission. The event starts at 09.30 at the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Av. Dom João II, 1998-001 Lisbon.

The report and more information on the high-level conference are available on

For further information, contact:
- Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, by email or telephone +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507
- Sara Riso, Information Liaison Officer, by email or telephone +353-1-204 3216.

Note to the editor
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound - is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policy making with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.

The European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) is a web-based monitoring instrument on working conditions in the European Union. It provides information on quality of work and employment from research findings of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), as well as from its network of correspondents across the EU 27 plus Norway. A report will be published on the EWCO website after the Lisbon conference.

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