The musculoskeletal system

Cover from BGIA-Report 2/2007

Cover from BGIA-Report 2/2007
Source: DGUV

Humans have over 650 muscles, over 200 bones and over 100 joints. Both the overloading and insufficient loading thereof can have a negative effect on the interaction between muscles, bones and joints. Almost 24% of days when employees are unfit for work are attributable to musculoskeletal diseases (MSE, 2006), and this figure rises as employee age increases – climbing to over 35% in the over-55s age group. Musculoskeletal diseases are therefore to be seen as the cause of significant macroeconomic damage (gross value creation lost as a direct result in 2006: approx. 15.4 billion Euros).

A reduction in musculoskeletal diseases is one of three fields of action defined in the Joint German OSH Strategy (GDA). Strains on the musculoskeletal system in the workplace are manifold, and in include the following types of strain:

  • Manual load handling (e.g. lifting, holding, carrying, pulling or pushing loads);
  • Forced postures (e.g. when sitting, standing, crouching or kneeling);
  • Work involving increased exertion and/or physical loading (e.g. climbing (with or without ropes) linked to workplaces which are difficult to access, exposure to forces and pressure when using work equipment);
  • Repetitive activities involving high operation frequencies;
  • Exposure to fully body vibration (GKV) or hand-arm vibration (HAV).
In addition to these types of strain it is also possible for mental strain to cause or amplify musculoskeletal complaints. The objectives set out in the GDA therefore define a decrease in impairing mental stress as important to the achievement of a reduction in the number of cases of musculoskeletal disease.

Working in cooperation with the German social accident institutions, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) has long been active in the prevention of occupational musculoskeletal diseases in practical scenarios, and offers a range of related services including:

  • Provision of practical guides and informative material for companies and employees;
  • Planning and organization of campaigns/public relations activities;
  • Provision of consulting services to companies in the field of ergonomic work design (relationship-based and behavioural prevention);
  • Delivery of seminars and training courses;
  • Integration of mental strains into risk assessment;
  • Design of occupational medical prophylaxis;
  • Development of ergonomic methods and procedures for the measurement and assessment of occupational strains on the musculoskeletal system;
  • Realization of laboratory-based and practical research projects focusing on ergonomics and occupational psychological aspects in a variety of workplaces;
  • Drawing up of and guidance on ergonomic design solutions for ageing workforces;
  • Ergonomic design of man-machine interfaces;
  • Measurements using the CUELA system for the purpose of risk assessment in typical occupational strain scenarios;
  • Database design and development.

Legal guidelines

The following laws and ordinances form the legal framework for employees exposed to musculoskeletal strain in the workplace:

  • Arbeitsschutzgesetz (ArbSchG)
  • Lastenhandhabungsverordnung (§ 3 LastHandhabV)
  • Mutterschutzgesetz (MuSchG)
  • Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz (JArbSchG)
  • Betriebssicherheitsverordnung (BetrSichV)
  • Lärm- und Vibrations-Arbeitsschutzverordnung (LärmVibrArbschV)
  • Occupational diseases-Verordnung (BKV)
  • BG-Vorschrift "Grundsätze der Prevention" (BGV A1)

Contact

Dr. Dirk Ditchen
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA)
Ergonomics
Tel.: 02241 231-2605

Contact for workpsychological questions
Dr. Marlen Cosmar
Institute for Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IAG)
Tel.: 0351 457-1724