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Preventing MSD risks in the workplace

MSD risks in companies account for 85% of occupational diseases each year in France. They have a huge economic impact for companies, healthcare organizations and employees.

In addition to affecting the comfort and ease of operators in their daily manual handling movements, MSDs affect performance, lead to excessive turnover, repeated absences and lengthen production times.

It is in the interest of both companies and operators to prevent MSD risks!

MSD prevention begins with screening for workstations at risk and then with ergonomic intervention.

Published on 14 January 2021 - Manut-LM

Why prevent MSDs?

In the case of MSDs, the adage “Prevention is better than cure” takes on its full meaning. Indeed, the financial cost for an employer who has to deal with an MSD is enormous compared to the cost of implementing a prevention plan.

While it is estimated that an occupational disease affecting a single employee’s shoulder costs the employer more than €50,000, the implementation of simple handling aid solutions represents only a few thousand euros for all employees.

Moreover, the hazards related to absences, productivity decreases and work-related malaise must be added as invisible but very real costs for companies.

Based on this observation, it is essential for any company manager to fight upstream against the appearance of MSDs!

Understand MSDs to avoid them

Pre-screening of risk situations

MSDs are caused by several factors. The gender of the operators, their age, their seniority in the company and in a position with repeated handling and heavy loads explain the appearance of MSDs.

To anticipate MSD prevention, several criteria must be considered. Turnover rates, absenteeism, types of contracts, age distribution, and the overall functioning of the production process are examples of information that can be used to better understand the health of the company.

To gather this information, do not hesitate to talk to the operators concerned and to refer to the annual report of the CHSCT, the social balance sheet and the annual report of the occupational physician.

The objective of this screening is to understand the mechanisms that explain the presence of MSD risk factors in order to better avoid them later on.

Occupational constraints that favour the appearance of MSDs

Physical factors are most often the cause of MSDs.

First of all, there are biomechanical constraints with operators who work in extreme postures (working with arms above the shoulders, movements with high joint constraints (twisting of the wrist or trunk).

If we add weight to these movements, the risk of MSDs is multiplied. Typical examples of these “accidents” are cardboard picked up from the floor, panels carried in an awkward posture, loads with difficult grips such as bags stored on pallets or packages stored on high shelves.

When workstation movements are performed repetitively, even with light loads or no weight at all, the risk is also very present. Indeed, the joints are very sensitive to the repetitiveness of gestures and postures!

Psychosocial and organizational factors are also at the origin of MSDs. For example, low social support at work, high organizational demand, working under time pressure, working in a cold zone, etc.

Consequences of MSDs on employees and companies

How to prevent MSDs?


Ergonomics must be the guiding principle of an MSD prevention approach. The more the organization adapts to the constraints of the human body, the lower the risk of MSDs.

This is achieved through a number of devices:

  • The purchase of ergonomic equipment and tools
  • Equipment to reduce the weight of the loads to be lifted
  • An organization that eliminates the repetitiveness of tasks in favor of their variety
  • Listening to teams to better respond upstream to identified risks

Everything you need to know about ergonomic load handling standards

Mobilize internal teams with a project supported by management

MSD prevention requires a commitment from management. The latter must understand the stakes and adhere to the prevention approach.

The employer must therefore provide the human, financial and time resources necessary to implement a genuine prevention policy.

To ensure that the resources and ambitions correspond to the needs of the operational staff, it will be essential to involve the various departments, the staff representatives, the CHSCT and/or the staff representative bodies as well as the occupational health service.

Finally, to avoid fumbling around, spending unnecessary energy or even making mistakes, call on organizations dedicated to these issues (CARSAT/CRAM/CGSS, IPRP, ergonomic consultants, ARACT, etc.).

The health of workers is their job!

Get help from an ergonomist

Once you have anticipated the onset of MSD risks, you can call on an ergonomist. The added value of an ergonomist is enormous for a company.

It can intervene at the design stage (of the object, the workstation or installation, the workshop, the process, etc.), in correction of a workstation following an accident at work or an occupational disease. His expertise makes it possible to identify new problem points and to think about prevention as a whole.

It may also involve adapting a workstation to adapt it to a disability of the operator, or when the objectives set by the company are not achieved (insufficient quality or productivity, for example).

The ergonomist is also a major ally in obtaining subsidies for the acquisition of material handling aids.

How does the intervention of an ergonomist work in industry?

Equip yourself with manual handling assistance solutions

Manual handling is a determining risk factor for the development of MSDs.

In order to limit the risks for employees as much as possible, companies are equipping themselves with handling assistance solutions. There are many solutions that correspond to the different types of handling: lifting, depositing, moving, pivoting, turning, etc.

It is crucial to choose tools that are suitable for operations, but also to choose tools that are designed to meet the most demanding ergonomic standards.

Be accompanied in these choices to avoid investing in equipment that will be little, not or badly used!

Discover ergonomic handling solutions
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