European Week for Safety and Health at work focuses on Lightening the Load

  • Campaign coincides with CIF’s Construction Safety Week

Friday 16th October

Monday 19th October marks the beginning of European Week for Safety and Health at Work focusing on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders under the theme of “Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load”.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include such diverse problems as lower back pain, repetitive strain injuries of various sorts and joint injuries. Absence from work due to MSDs accounts for a high proportion of working days lost in EU Member States. Performance and productivity can be affected when an employee is experiencing pain at work due to an MSD. In some cases, workers suffering from an MSD may be forced into taking early retirement due to restrictions on their ability to carry out their day-to-day tasks.
According to a recent report, published in 2019, by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), roughly three out of every five workers in the EU-28 report MSD complaints. The most common types of MSDs reported by workers are backache and muscular pains in the upper limbs.
Of all workers in the EU with a work-related health problem, 60% identify MSDs as their most serious issue. One out of five people in the EU-28 suffered from a chronic back or neck disorder in the past year.
Speaking about the campaign, Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority said: “The prevalence of MSDs in the workplace can be due to many factors and it is important that Irish employers address this issue. Repeated exposure to ergonomic risk factors can result in work-related MSDs which now represent one of the major occupational health and safety problems in the EU today. Nevertheless, MSDs are manageable and preventable.  Practical risk assessment tools and examples of good ergonomic practice are available to support employers and employees on the Authority’s website”.
Dr McGuinness continued: “In recent years, manual handling has tended to be the most common cause of non-fatal injuries here in Ireland, contributing to almost one-third of injuries reported to the HSA in 2018 (31%). The resulting musculoskeletal diseases or MSDs are the most prevalent type of work-related health problem  the back being the most common part of the body to be injured in non-fatal incidents (22% of incidents reported to the HSA). It is also important to note that with the increase in working from home due to COVID-19, employers and employees need to take account of risks arising from MSDs in order to prevent long-term health impacts arising from the set-up of the home work space”.
Dr Christa Sedlatschek, EU-OSHA Executive Director, emphasised that “in addition to the human suffering caused, workers miss out on so many fulfilling aspects of their private and working lives. Those workers with MSDs are absent from work more often and for longer periods, are likely to be less productive while at work and often take early retirement.  This is bad news for businesses and a huge burden on national economies. This campaign will highlight that early intervention and rehabilitation are vital and entirely possible. By working together and adopting good practice now, we can prevent MSDs in future generations of workers”.


This week is also Construction Safety Week in Ireland. The Construction Industry Federation Safety and Health Sub Committee has identified five key areas to focus on this week: mental health, welfare and wellbeing; plant and pedestrian safety; occupational health; working safely at height and emergency preparedness. 

Full details about the ‘Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load’ campaign can be found at

For Ireland-specific information and case studies go to
For more information about Construction Safety Week go to