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Is your organization one of the more than 160 organizations that joined the National Safety Council’s MSD Pledge since its inception in 2021?  

The goal of the pledge is to be, “a global movement of employers across industries to transform workplace safety and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), the most common workplace injury.” This pledge is not only the responsibility of the organizational leaders, it’s about everyone at the organization creating a safe, healthy company culture which is considered the “foundation of any MSD solutions program.”  VelocityEHS is proudly one of those organizations that joined the pledge, announcing in June of 2022 that the company is “proud to support NSC’s pledge, and excited to have so many global leaders join us in our ongoing commitment to reducing MSDs in the workplace.”

Continue reading this blog post and refer to the NSC’s “Getting Started with the MSD Pledge” eBook to learn how to build strong support for this initiative in your organization.  

Each Position Plays a Role in the MSD Pledge

Every position in a company can play a role in supporting their organization in the MSD pledge.

  • Company leaders are responsible for setting the vision and aligning safety with business success – they understand the value of preventing and addressing MSDs and the risk the employees take to accomplish organizational tasks. Leadership provides resources to address safety and MSD risks while cultivating a safe environment where workers feel a sense of inclusion in organizational decisions.   
  • Managers and supervisors will lead by example, by following all safety and health procedures, building trust, and identifying and mitigating hazards. They are responsible for providing clear and timely updates on safety policies, procedures, goals, and program results. They will coach all workers to consistently and properly use all MSD solutions.  
  • Frontline workers are the ones who face workplace hazards most often, and they should use established safety practices while executing job tasks, point out hazards they identify and provide feedback on new and current protocols, to ultimately help gain buy-in from workers that aren’t part of the team.

Building an Ergonomics Solutions Team to Support the MSD Pledge

To ensure that a company is living up to the pledge and keeping their employees safe from MSDs, an ergonomics solutions team should be assembled. Company leadership will identify an MSD solutions leadership sponsor (a current employee) that will support the MSD solution program, remove any barriers that may present themselves, facilitate the resolutions to barriers and serve as a conduit to the top leadership team. The MSD sponsor should be a good listener, a problem solver, someone who is influential and can communicate effectively.  

Once the MSD solutions sponsor is chosen, the next task will be to designate an MSD solutions champion. This champion will manage and oversee your organization’s MSD solution program. Your champion should convey authority, express empathy, build trust and rapport, communicate effectively, and have the capacity to serve. They will be responsible for developing the MSD solutions program to fit the company’s needs, collaborate with different internal departments and external stakeholders, present and influence leadership, conduct assessments, talk to employees and workers about risks and solutions, review latest news and research and monitor the effectiveness or solutions implemented.  

The MSD solutions champion cannot effectively do this on their own, so they will convene an MSD solutions team consisting both of labor (workers) and management that can collaborate on safety and MSD preventions. Depending on the size of your company, this may be one team or multiple teams. The core team should consist of 6-12 diverse members from different departments, functions, shifts and organizational levels within the company. These diverse members may be workers (labor), managers, front line supervisors, safety professionals, healthcare professionals, human resources, engineering team, or maintenance workers. This team will be responsible for identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating MSD risks across the company.  

Gaining Employee Support and Buy-In for the MSD Pledge

Having workers as part of the team is essential as they have a complete understanding of how the job task is done. This will also help when you ask for an employee’s input on existing job risks, solutions to risk mitigation and request feedback on any solutions previously implemented. There are many ways to gather employee input; company wide surveys, engage focus groups, 1 on 1 conversations, or a combination of multiple. It is important to be transparent with communication with your employees and this can be done with company emails, dedicated websites, team meetings, town halls and/or bulletin boards. The MSD solution champion and team should meet regularly with workers to understand the current work environment. The supervisors and managers should have an open channel for communication with the workers to all them to collaborate and share their insights on both the most difficult tasks as well as solutions for those tasks. Establishing an ongoing feedback system for employees to report MSD signs and symptoms, job hazards, and improvement suggestions will allow the program to continue to grow within the company. 

Allowing all members of an organization to voice concerns, symptoms or improvements without fear will instill a sense of pride for all positions to uphold the company’s values and participate in safety protocols, including full adoption and usage of MSD solutions.  

Buy-in for support of the pledge may not happen right away, which is why constant evaluation must happen. Evaluate participation at all levels from leadership to front line workers; track return on investment for new solutions; share your wins and learn from your misses. Everyone makes mistakes, but learning from those mistakes is what makes an organization better. The NSC’s Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) plan recognizes that human error is inevitable, so allowing team members to voice solutions will be a way for everyone to learn. Improvement happens through learning and experimentation.

Want to Help your Organization Support the MSD Pledge?

Reach out internally to your managers, supervisors or health and safety team to see how you can become involved in the pledge. If your organization is not part of the pledge, take that first step to help your organization become part of the group that is committed to reducing MSD risks and promoting the health and wellbeing of your workforce.