NSC Releases Inaugural MSD Pledge Community Report on Workplace Injury Progress

Survey completed by more than 50 companies shows most have strong safety culture, more focus needed on musculoskeletal disorder risk reduction and innovation.

January 10, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, 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. Recognizing the impact these injuries have on workers and businesses, the National Safety Council, with funding from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), established the groundbreaking MSD Solutions Lab in 2021 to solve workplace MSDs. As a hallmark initiative of the lab, the MSD Pledge was launched in June 2022, and many of the world’s leading employers have joined the global effort to reduce this pervasive safety challenge. 

To help monitor progress along this journey of transforming workplace safety and improving the lives of millions of workers, NSC developed the MSD Solutions Index, an annual benchmarking survey, and today released the inaugural findings in the MSD Solutions Index Pledge Community Report. 

The MSD Solutions Index provides MSD Pledge members individualized feedback on areas of success and opportunities for improvement related to their current MSD reduction efforts, and helps identify broader industry trends impacting MSD 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.”

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 the 46-question MSD Solutions Index 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 MSD Solutions Index included:

● No organization earned a perfect score on the MSD Solutions Index, 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 MSD 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 MSD 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 MSD Solutions 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 MSD Solutions 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. 

While 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. In addition, the report outlined several steps and actions organizations should take to achieve impactful MSD programs, including:

● 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. Recently, the Council introduced the next evolution of its industry-first call-to-action to transform workplace safety, the MSD Pledge 2.0. To learn more about these efforts, visit nsc.org/msd.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for 110 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace and roadways. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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