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Analyses also show that Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) are one of the main causes of long-term absences from work. A new Royal Decree that came into force in May 2024 on ergonomics at work and the prevention of MSD sets out guidelines and obligations for employers and employees to create an ergonomically responsible working environment. The Decree aims to significantly reduce work-related MSD by promoting systematic and proactive measures, thereby improving employee health and productivity. 

Definitions

The Decree defines the following concepts: 

  • Ergonomics: an approach aimed at adapting work, including the workstation and the work environment, to the human being, taking into account their physical, mental, psychological, and social characteristics, and which must be applied in all areas of well-being at work. 
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: health problems related to musculoskeletal structures such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and joints, and manifested in particular as disorders of the back, neck and upper or lower limbs and caused or aggravated by musculoskeletal risks at work. 
  • Musculoskeletal risks at work: the likelihood of one or more employees experiencing physical harm, such as MSD or other health problems, as a result of exposure to biomechanical or other risk factors at work, on which the employer has an impact. 

Key points

The main points of the Decree are: 

  • Risk analysis and evaluation. Employers must conduct a comprehensive risk analysis when designing, arranging, or modifying workstations to identify and evaluate ergonomic risks in the workplace. The analysis must consider a non-exhaustive list of biomechanical factors such as working postures, repetitive movements, and physical load. The internal prevention advisor and, in certain cases, the prevention advisor-ergonomist should be involved in the risk analysis. 
  • Preventive measures and evaluation. Based on the risk analysis, the employer must implement appropriate preventive measures, taking into account the advice of the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work (CPBW). This may include adjusting workplaces, providing ergonomic tools, and organising work schedules to reduce physical strain. The employer must evaluate the measures in place and whenever there is any change that may affect workers’ exposure to musculoskeletal risks. 
  • Global prevention plan and annual action plan. The results of the risk analysis and prevention measures must be included in the global prevention plan and, if applicable, in the annual action plan. 
  • Information and training. Employees and the CPBW must regularly receive information and appropriate training on musculoskeletal risks at work. This must include the nature of the risks and biomechanical and other risk factors, preventive measures, the role of the employee hierarchy, health monitoring, and the procedures for detection and reporting. The information and training should also enable the employees to contribute to an ergonomically responsible work environment. 
  • Health surveillance. Employers should take the necessary measures to provide appropriate health surveillance to employees exposed to musculoskeletal risks. 

Takeaway for employers

Every employer is obliged to carry out a risk analysis of musculoskeletal risks at work and take appropriate preventive measures. These measures must be regularly evaluated, involving the appropriate stakeholders. 

 

 

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