The EU and national Governments have been urged to do more to support workplace health and safety reps in tackling back, neck and shoulder pain.
The call for action was made by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which highlights that back, neck and shoulder pain (alongside pain in other joints such as hands, elbows and knees) - known collectively and technically as musculoskeletal disorders (or MSDs) – are the most common work-related disease in Europe. The most common causes are repetitive hand or arm movements, and sitting for long periods of time.
European Directives put obligations on employers to prevent such disorders. In 2007, the European Commission ran a consultation on possible health and safety actions, including new legislation. However, the ETUC points out that progress was suspended pending a review of EU directives in 2014-15, and nothing has happened since.
Of particular concern are reports from trade unions that existing rights to consultation with workers are often ignored, and health and safety enforcement agencies are failing to take action to remedy this.
“The EU needs to act to enforce existing legislation, and if necessary take new measures to end the costly plague of back, neck and shoulder pain,” explained Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary. “What is needed is proper risk assessment and involvement of workers and their safety reps in all workplaces.”
“Health and safety is not red tape” she added. “Action is needed to save working people from unnecessary suffering, and save businesses from avoidable sick leave and compensation claims. The European Union cannot brush this under the carpet in the name of better regulation. What working people need is better protection and enforcement of at least existing legislation.”
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