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Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common workplace injury, costing U.S. businesses in the private sector nearly $17 billion a year, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. With the impact MSDs have on workers and businesses in mind, the National Safety Council (NSC), with funding from Amazon, established the MSD Solutions Lab in 2021 to address the problem.

As a hallmark initiative of the lab, the MSD Pledge was launched in June 2022 and many employers have joined the global effort to reduce this pervasive safety challenge. To help monitor progress of transforming workplace safety and improving workers’ lives, NSC developed the MSD Solutions Index, an annual benchmarking survey, and released the inaugural findings in the MSD Solutions Index Pledge Community Report.

MSD Solutions Index Pledge Community Report“What gets measured gets managed, which is why collecting workplace data is critical to helping organizations mitigate MSDs.”

— Paul Vincent, Executive VP of Workplace Practice, NSC

The index provides members with individualized feedback on areas of success and opportunity for improvement related to their current MSD reduction efforts, and to help identify broader industry trends impacting prevention efforts. Developed in partnership with academic and industry experts, the index is also intended to hold organizations accountable to their three main pledge commitments of advancing MSD risk reduction, innovation and collaboration, and safety culture.

“What gets measured gets managed, which is why collecting workplace data is critical to helping organizations mitigate MSDs,” said Paul Vincent, executive vice president of workplace practice at NSC. “Through the MSD Solutions Index, not only does it provide direct, tangible takeaways for each pledging organization, but it offers key insights that can be applied across industries to improve MSD prevention. Addressing the most common workplace injury on a global scale has never been done before and initiatives like this help our entire safety community be better positioned to create safer outcomes for millions of workers worldwide.”

MSD Solutions Index Survey Results

Starting in December 2022 and concluding in June 2023, 52 MSD Pledge members — representing the manufacturing, professional, transportation and warehousing, healthcare, utilities, and several other industries — completed a 46-question survey. Organizations received an overall index result, as well as results for the three pledge commitment subsections, that fell into one of five results categories representing MSD prevention maturity: novice, reactive, advancing, proactive and innovating.

Major insights from the index included:

  • No organization earned a perfect score, underscoring the complexity of MSDs and their prevention. However, 85% of organizations received overall results in the advancing (39%) or proactive (46%) categories, while 15% were in the reactive category. Further, 54% rated their workplace’s ability to prevent MSDs as either very good or excellent.
  • For the three subsections:
      • Risk Reduction: 44% of organizations received a result of advancing.
      • Safety Culture: Respondents showed slightly higher average scores, with 42% in the proactive category.
      • Innovation And Collaboration: Overall results demonstrated slightly lower average scores, with 31% scoring as reactive, though more than half of organizations exhibited advancing, proactive or innovating results.
  • Larger organizations, which have more than 1,000 employees, are generally more effective at mitigating MSD risk, as they are more likely to have mature, long-standing safety programs and resources to adopt more complex solutions and technology. In contrast, the majority of small to medium sized businesses established their safety program in the last five years.
  • Eight in 10 pledge members have some form of prevention or ergonomics program in place, and 65% have methods for tracking MSD rates across their workplace.
  • Nearly two-thirds of organizations regularly conduct employee perception surveys, and nearly 90% have methods in place for workers to share suggestions for safety improvements. Notably, the index showed that when it comes to safety decisions related to workstation design, employees’ physical work environment and workflow, frontline workers are regularly consulted on these issues, which leads to stronger safety cultures. However, while larger organizations are more likely to administer employee perception surveys, they saw lower levels of trust and frontline worker involvement in decision making.
  • Nearly 85% of organizations reported that psychosocial risk factors contribute to MSDs in their workplace. These risk factors include things like mental health, fatigue, lack of tracking, and lack of personnel and proper equipment or tools.
  • More than 80% of pledging members that completed the index are currently using technology in their workplace to prevent MSDs and just as many are effective at ensuring these best practices are broadcast widely across their organizations.

(Source: MSD Solutions Index Pledge Community Report, NSC)

The report highlighted several areas of success among the MSD Pledge community, including tracking MSD indicators, involving frontline workers to make improvements, building greater workplace communication, and knowledge or use of MSD technology solutions. It also noted some areas of opportunity, such as improving methods of tracking MSDs, quantifying psychosocial risk factors, continually monitoring and assessing physical risk factors, sharing best practices outside of an organization, and understanding the workforce’s unique needs.

The report also outlined several steps and actions organizations should take to achieve impactful programs, including:

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  • Engaging senior leadership, designating an MSD solutions champion to represent the workforce, and creating and empowering an MSD solutions team to collaborate throughout an organization.
  • Collecting and responding to employee feedback regularly and measuring the progress of an MSD program and safety culture, and tracking the impact, solutions effectiveness, return on investment and year-over-year change.
  • Identifying risk factors with involvement from frontline workers and implementing appropriate changes.
  • Ensuring MSD solutions are equitable for all employees.

The MSD Solutions Index is one of several initiatives led by NSC to achieve its goal of preventing MSDs before they start. NSC recently introduced the next evolution of its industry-first call-to-action to transform workplace safety, the MSD Pledge 2.0.

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