Healthy Workplaces – European Week for Safety and Health at Work
Ready for the European Week for Safety and Health at Work?
European Week for Safety and Health at Work
What are Europe’s most frequent work-related health problems?
The campaign Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load launched this October. It wants to put a spotlight on the millions of workers who suffer from MSDs:
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
A fancy phrase that describes that lower back pain that never goes away. Those pins and needles in the right shoulder that wakes you up at night. That tennis elbow which sends a sharp pain when you least expect it.
All this results in the same pattern. Your employees underperform due to pain and discomfort. They take more sick days. Long term absence kicks in. This in turn affects your end of year results. And yeah, that’s not good.
But how do you think it affects your worker’s personal life?
After all, if their chronic pain is a result of using wrong postures while being employed at your supermarket, lifting patients without proper equipment or enough staff, working a machine using repetitive motions for years…
Could it have been avoided? Is it due to the machine or how people are using it? Or does it depends on who uses it?
Either way, you as an employer are legally responsible.
And hey, a good manager should want to provide a healthy workplace, right?
The European Week for Safety and Health at Work
So a weekly campaign launched by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) probably isn’t going to fix the problem.
But it can help us all start more conversations around the problem.
How is it that millions of workers, after all the legal and technical advancements in the last 30 years, still end up with broken bodies due to work?
3 out of 5 workers in Europe are affected according to EU-OSHA.
What are we not getting right?
The legislation is there. The initiatives are there.
Do we just not care enough about health and safety at work?
Act before the problem happens
So a worker is unlikely to come up and say they have a work-related musculoskeletal disorder.
They will use a more normal name and call it a sore neck, or stiff muscles that never soften. Most employers will take action and try to help out while sending the co-worker to rehab, etc.
But how many proactively take the time to look at where the problem is coming from?
Treat the cause, not just the symptom.
Now, this might sound obvious or like simplifying, but preventive steps are many times cheap and easy.
When we’re talking work-related musculoskeletal disorders at hospitals, factory floors or at a logistics centre, some groups are at a higher risk than others according to research: older employees, women, and migrant workers.
The psychosocial aspect is also increasingly given more attention. Countries like Sweden lead the way by putting a higher responsibility on employers. They have an obligation to continuously review and manage the social working environment.
How can you work preventively and avoid increasing your workload?
We’ll get to that.
Occupational health and safety during COVID
Now the EU-Osha campaign hashtag #EUHealthyWorkplaces probably won’t be trending on Twitter any time soon.
The world focus is elsewhere.
COVID-19 has also forced many workers to find solutions on their own – working from kitchen tables across Europe. We previously highlighted the legal obligations related to health and safety for homeworkers.
There are many nice leadership examples where companies get it right and provide the correct home equipment. But where do you fit a second monitor on your already cramped kitchen table?
Returning to on-site or essential workers, their situation is often even trickier.
Apart from the normal workload when it comes to health and safety, managers are busy with all the extra measures they have to take because of COVID-19.
Asking companies to step up even more and to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorder… Managers certainly have a lot on their plate right now.
But it’s like a snowball rolling down a slope… (uh, sorry, as a Swede I take all the chances to include snow-references):
The less you do today, the more problems your organisation will face tomorrow.
Here’s what we see that our successful users do:
Involve your employees!
It’s great to ask health and safety experts to come on-site and assess worksite conditions, possible risks, prevention, etc.
But there is often a gap between a report written in a highly bureaucratic way and the outcome 2 months later.
Many managers try a more people-centric approach.
ASK your people.
- What do they think can be done?
- How would they solve the problem?
- What do they think others would respond well to?
- What should we stop, start and continue doing?
Earlier we mentioned that prevention can be cheap and easy. Many times the companies have “perfect” health and safety protocols and rules to avoid work-related injuries.
The theory is good. But what happens in real life?
“With people that are engaged, you wouldn’t have safety problems. They put on the gear”, says the site manager at BASF. “It’s not about pointing the finger; it’s about having a discussion.”
Their way of tackling health and safety at work is to use conversations as the basis. Get line managers involved and invite your employees to come up with solutions that they think (or know!) will work at YOUR place of work. Cause all organisations are different and change over time.
And that is the exact recommendation that we would like you to copy for the European Week for Safety and Health at Work.
To sum up, let’s start the conversations around how to create better, safe and healthy workplaces.
Leaders in 60 countries use the Celpax to measure if their improvements are working.
Hej! I’m Rebecca, co-founder at Celpax. We use simple tech tools to create better work environments. And build a better society while at it! Let’s talk about the European Week for Safety and Health at Work on Twitter? Follow us on Facebook and Linkedin.
Photo by drobotdean