13 October 2000



European Week for Safety

and Health at Work, which

runs from Oct 16-22,

is a chance to focus on

back pain and other

musculoskeletal disorders

THIS years European Week for Safety and Health at Work is set to break all previous records with thousands of organisations throughout the UK preparing to take part in the event which runs from 16-22 Oct 2000.

This year the initiative coincides with Back Care Week and the emphasis will be on reducing back pain and musculoskeletal disorders by increasing awareness, identifying solutions and supporting practical projects in the workplace.

Musculoskeletal disorders and back pain cost the UK economy some £5bn a year with over 119 million days lost from work each year.

Helping to launch the week this year is former international athlete Roger Black who knows to his personal cost how ill health and injury can cost dearly.

A broken foot during the peak of his running career led to two years of lost competitive work resulting in a £30,000 bill for specialist treatment and possibly the loss of an Olympic gold medal.

The only silver lining to result from those bleak days was the surprise diagnosis that his body had been out of alignment which could have caused the broken foot. However, Roger fought to bring his level of fitness back and his reward was to win the European Championship for the second time.

"The experience taught me the importance of keeping healthy in terms of musculoskeletal well-being and how much damage one can do to oneself if one is unaware of the problem," he says.

Now aged 34, Roger still runs to keep fit and healthy and to keep himself in good condition for new areas of work which include television presenting – he was one of the BBCs presenters during the Olympic Games last month – and promotional work such as motivational and after-dinner speaking.

"Like every athlete, I had to keep on top form if I was to keep my livelihood but it is just as important for everyone in a working scenario. That is why it is so important to be aware of the dangers of musculoskeletal damage and take action to prevent it. I wish this campaign every success," he says.

Organised in the UK by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the week is supported by BackCare, British Safety Council, CBI, IOSH, RoSPA, and the TUC. HSE Northern Ireland, the Health Education Board for Scotland and the Health Promotion Division of the National Assembly for Wales are also taking part.

Organisations of all sizes and sectors are invited to do something, however small, to improve health and safety within their environment, ideally with the focus on back care though all efforts are welcome. A free action pack, containing posters, good health guides and fact sheets is available via HSEs hotline (0845-2701100).

"Back pain and musculoskeletal disorders affect more people than any other industrial injury or disease," says Peter Rimmer, the HSEs director of information.

"The week is an opportunity for people to sign up and take action to eliminate health and safety problems in their workplace. Feedback shows the week is an enjoyable, rewarding and highly participative activity. I would urge everyone to get involved."

Activities for the week will include a nationwide series of moving and handling workshops for care providers organised by Mulberry House and St John Ambulance, all free of charge. Dozens of hospitals and local authorities are planning similar events and action packs have already been requested by a range of businesses from global corporations to corner shops.

Last years winners included a Yorks chip shop with just one employee to huge companies such as Nationwide Building Society and British Sugar. &#42

Left: Those in

farming are particularly prone to musculoskeletal disorders and tend not to be very good at admitting that their working methods are often a cause of their injuries.

International athlete Roger Black, who is launching the European Safety Week, knows to his personal cost how ill-health and injury can cost dearly. A broken foot led to two lost years, a £30,000 treatment bill and a lost gold medal.


&#8226 Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) cover a wide range of health problems. The main groups are back pain/injuries and work-related upper limb disorders, commonly known as repetitive strain injuries. Lower limbs can also be affected.

&#8226 The risk of MSD is increased by factors or combinations of factors such as manual load lifting, poor or awkward movements, highly repetitive movements, pace of work and vibrations.

&#8226 Musculoskeletal problems are the primary source of occupational health complaints reported by workers across Europe. According to a recent European survey, 30% of the workers complained of back pain, 17% complained of muscular pain in arms and legs and 45% reported working in painful or tiring positions.

&#8226 In some countries MSD is now the most prevalent occupational disease.

&#8226 The toll of aches, pains and injuries is a heavy load borne by workers and their families. It is also a heavy load for businesses and farms and for the European economy in general. Poor health and safety practice results in high costs from sickness, absence, lower quality of work life and lost production.

&#8226 The EU has adopted directives to protect workers and improve health and safety at work. These measures include minimum requirements aimed at preventing musculoskeletal disorders.

&#8226 Member states have issued legislation covering risks related to MSD and practical guidelines and preventive tools are also available. The message is clear: MSD can and must be prevented.

Above and below: All industries involve lifting; farming involves lifting a range of unusual shapes, sizes and weights of objects.


&#8226 Farms and other businesses that make up the agricultural sector can:

&#8226 Launch a new workplace initiative to cut back pain

&#8226 Encourage the participation of workers and their representatives in a safety drive.

&#8226 Come up with good ways to communicate good practice.


&#8226 European Week for Safety and Health at Work is an information campaign designed to raise awareness and promote activities to make Europe a safe and healthy place to work. It provides a unique opportunity to focus attention on the importance of occupational health and safety. This year particular attention is being paid to the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

&#8226 It is organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health and Work and run by the 15 member states of the EU. The agency is the European Union organisation responsible for occupational safety and health information.

&#8226 The week is aimed at organisations, companies and workplaces (including farms) of all sizes. The aim in particular is to attract the attention of small and medium sized enterprises.

&#8226 Everybody involved in occupational safety and health is invited to take part, especially safety and health institutions and organisations, trades unions, and employers organisations, companies, managers, employees and safety representatives.


&#8226 Though European Week for Safety and Health at Work happens next week, its just as useful at any time in the next few months for you to:

&#8226 Increase health and safety awareness among employees to make your farm or company a healthier and safer place to work in.

&#8226 Demonstrate that good safety and health is good business, help to prevent work-related illness and early retirement and save your business time and money.

&#8226 Do your bit to reduce Europes toll of illness and help improve working conditions and quality of life for European workers.

&#8226 Help people to enjoy life without pain and strain.

Poster promoting European Safety Week says it all. Reducing the toll of back and other problems would reduce pain and cut business costs.

How often have you struggled with a heavy tractor rear wheel and felt the strain it puts on backs and knees? Its just one of the agricultural practices that the HSE is trying to draw attention to.

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