Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace

The Ontario Ministry of Labour recently announced the results of its Fall 2010 Musculoskeletel Disorders (MSD) workplace inspection blitz. MSD accounts for 44% of all lost time claim and lost days, and 41% of all lost time injury claims filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in 2009. In the past decade MSD enforcement has led to more worker training, the development of safer procedures, and improved maintenance, all contributing to a decline in MSD lost time injuries.

Inspectors focused on a variety of problems in each industry, most relating to lifting practices, the need for ergonomic work stations to reduce repetitive motion injuries, and safe access to work areas. Industry specific problems, such as mining vehicle operation, were also inspected for compliance. During the month long inspection blitz, 3,350 visits to 2,778 locations took place. Of the 8,851 orders issued, 2,403 were directly related to MSD hazards. The most common orders issued were for more training, the maintenance of equipment, removal of floor obstacles, materials handling, and taking reasonable precaution for the protection of workers.

Before and during the MSD inspection blitz, the Ministry communication promoted an awareness by raising the issue in the Legislature and enhancing online resources. Guidance sheets for ladder usage in industry, media interviews, and presentations all contributed to an overall publicity surrounding these problems. The annual rate of lost time injuries from MSD related hazards is declining.

Injury cause by MSD hazards can sneak up. The effects of hazards such as forceful exertion, repetitive motion, awkward posture, and unsafe conditions can be difficult to detect as they are subtle and cumulative. In 2009, 28,570 claims were place; 912,785 workdays were lost, for a total of almost $112 million in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board costs.

The Safe At Work Ontario compliance strategy used inspection blitzes as an integral part of keeping workers safe. Employers are encouraged to seek compliance assistance from the available health and safety associations. The Ministry will continue to focus on MSD hazards as it begins to address the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety.

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