A new European proposal covering all musculoskeletal disorders (Ergonomic risks)

Government lead

HSE leads for the UK in negotiations. Other agencies such as the Office of the Rail Regulator, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Better Regulation Executive have an interest.


In 1990 the European Commission introduced two Directives intended to address the problem of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); one on Manual Handling and another on the use of Display Screen Equipment. In 2008 it commissioned research into the possible impact of a number of level policy options designed to improve the prevention of work-related MSDs. This was followed in 2009 by a proposal for a new Directive addressing all significant risk factors for work-related MSDs and repealing the previous two Directives. The aim was to:

During 2009 a working group of the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH) considered the proposal, revised the text and agreed an opinion, which was accepted by the ACSH at its December 2009 plenary. In addition an Expert Group, composed of representatives from all Member States, met to advise the Commission on the drafting of the two technical annexes. It was expected the Commission would publish a proposal in Spring 2010. However, the Commission decided more research was needed before preparing an impact assessment of the economic, social and environmental consequences of its proposal. Delays have continued with this dossier.

Although HSE supported the principal policy objective of this Directive ie simplification,  it  considered the text on which the ACSH based its opinion did not achieve this aim. the European Commission's Impact Assessment Board considered the proposal during 2012. The IAB did not believe the Commission's impact assessment to be robust enough, and asked the Commission to re-examine the dossier and the IA.

Current position

Since late 2012, the Commission have been considering how to take forward the work on the Ergonomics Dossier, including a suggestion of using a non-binding Recommendation. However, there is no consensus in the ACSH for this option. The Commission has also confirmed - through its REFIT programme - that there will be no legislative proposals on Ergonomics/MSDs during its present mandate.

HSE does not expect any proposals on this dossier until late 2014 or early 2015, following the elections to the European Parliament and appointment of a new College of Commissioners in 2014.

Updated 2021-06-08