MSDs account for nearly half of all work absences in Europe, study finds
The Work Foundation, a UK-based research firm, conducted the study across 25 European countries. The findings revealed that 100 million individuals suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain with as many as 40 percent indicating that they have had to quit their jobs due to their conditions. Researchers estimated that these factors represent as much as 2 percent of the European Union's annual gross domestic product -- an estimated $400 billion.
Researchers said the findings suggest that the early detection and intervention in MSDs ultimately reduces the financial burden and improves employees' performance.
"One of the common themes throughout our research has been evidence from country experts and from literature of the often long delays that workers with MSDs experience between the onset of their condition and their subsequent access to diagnosis, treatment, therapy and other forms of support," the researchers wrote.
The report recommended a new and more inclusive method to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of treating MSDs. This method, researchers said, should consider more than simply the upfront costs of medical expenditures and incorporate wider socioeconomic considerations -- such as work productivity -- into the financial and medical evaluations for treating MSDs. Such an approach could provide a more holistic and perhaps more realistic assessment of the overall costs.
Reduce injuries. Although governments can lead the charge in pushing for safer workplaces, the report concluded that employers should play an active role in reducing MSDs.
"Much of the attention that employers pay to the issue of MSDs and the impact of the workplace on their onset or deterioration is driven by a concern to avoid or limit litigation and ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care," the researchers wrote. "However, this neglects a wider issue that other work-associated factors can also contribute to MSDs."
The report urged employers to:
- Promote healthier lifestyles. Companies, researchers said, should encourage more physical fitness and target obesity.
- Raise awareness. Educate employees about ergonomics and the management of MSDs.
- Act fast. Employers should keep an eye on frequent absence spells and patterns in work disability. Intervene early and offer return-to-work programs.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
December 3, 2009
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