Last reviewed 6 January 2021

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can affect anyone but recent European research shows that groups of workers at risk of discrimination, such as women, migrants and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) workers, are particularly at risk.

The European Risk Observatory, at the request of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), has produced Workforce diversity and musculoskeletal disorders: review of facts and figures and case examples.

The review examines the prevalence of MSDs and the associated physical, psychosocial, individual and organisational risk factors in these three specific groups of workers.

It establishes why these groups typically have poorer occupational safety and health conditions and what companies and public bodies can do to address the issue.

“Interviews with experts, focus groups with workers and case study analyses shape new policy recommendations for the prevention of MSDs among an increasingly diverse European workforce,” EU-OSHA said.


Among the policy changes suggested by the report are:

  • promoting a “diversity” perspective among public authorities and labour inspectorates

  • showing organisations the positive effects of employing a diverse workforce

  • building a culture of inclusion and zero tolerance of discrimination

  • promoting a participative approach to MSD prevention, giving voice to diverse groups within the workforce

  • developing ad-hoc tools to deal with a diverse workforce (with special attention paid to job design and the development of protective tools and equipment specifically adapted to take account of the biological characteristics and skin colour of a diverse workforce)

  • improving working and health conditions in women-dominated sectors and occupations

  • developing ergonomic and protective equipment specifically adapted for women

  • helping migrant workers to overcome language barriers.