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Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load

Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load

This week, 24th to 28th of October, is European Week for Safety and Health at Work.

The theme for the Week is ‘Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load’ and this is part of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2020-22. The Campaign is organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA. The campaign aims to raise awareness of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and the importance of preventing them.  The key focus for this EU OSHA “Lighten the Load” campaign 2022 is to highlight the importance of taking time to understand the human interaction in the physical work environment, managing the physical ergonomic risks and working together to develop better ways of working resulting in improved musculoskeletal health and performance.

On the Farm

Work activities on the farm by their nature regularly involve physical manual work. It is important that this work is planned well and risks of musculoskeletal injury, particularly back injury are avoided.

The Health and Safety Authority report that back injury and other musculoskeletal disorders (problems affecting bones, muscles and joints) account for one third of all reported injuries at work. In general, they result from exposure to manual handling risk factors. These risk factors include lifting heavy loads, awkward postures, lifting loads to a height or to ground level, repetitive movements and poor workplace set up.  

Irish research has found that 57% of farmers lost full time workdays, with over 22% losing 15 days or more due to musculoskeletal disorders and back pain.

The farmers-health-and-wellbeing.pdf (hsa.ie) “A guide to staying healthy while farming” has the following tips for farmers.


  • Assess and organise your work to avoid or reduce exposure to manual handling risk factors.
  • Change the way loads are stored to avoid lifting loads above your head. Try to store loads between knee and elbow height where possible.
  • Use work platforms or benches to store materials.
  • Use mechanical aids for lifting and moving loads.
  • Fit wheels to heavy loads, such as gates.
  • Take time to plan each lifting activity. Get help if you need it.
  • Try to vary work activities and allow for recovery periods when doing physical work.
  • Warm up your muscles before any lifting or manual farm work.
  • When planning to lift objects, assess the load weight and size before lifting. Keep your back straight, keep the load close to your body, bend your knees and lift using your thigh muscles, not your back muscles. Don’t lift and twist your back at the same time.
  • Make sure you have good lighting and space to carry out your work.
  • Use attachments on tractors and other handling aids, as needed.
  • Use automatic hitching in place of three-point linkage systems.
  • Make sure you have good seating in tractors and other vehicles.

Ask yourself

  • Do I plan work activities to include the use of mechanical aids?
  • Do I organise the storage of materials to prevent lifting loads above head height?
  • Do I make sure that I do not try to lift a very heavy load on my own?

Further details

Full details about the 2020-22 Healthy Workplaces Campaign including lots of helpful information and guidance can be accessed at Preventing MSDs to lighten the load

H.S.A publication - Reducing the Risk of Back Injuries on the Farm Reducing the Risk of Back Injuries on the Farm.pdf