Workplace pains and strains are also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) and Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI). These types of injuries affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.
MSDs develop as a result of the effects of repetitive, forceful or awkward movements on bones, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues. Workers may experience symptoms such as discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling, weakness and restricted movements.
MSD is not a medical diagnosis; it is an umbrella term for a group of injuries. Some of these injuries include:
Workers are more likely to suffer an MSD if they perform jobs with MSD risk factors that include repetitive movements, forceful efforts, and fixed or awkward postures.
Workplace pains and strains can be serious and disabling for Ontario workers, causing pain and suffering ranging from discomfort to severe disability. The consequences are far reaching and can affect every aspect of a worker's life.
MSDs are also costly for Ontario’s employers. They are the number one reason for lost-time claims reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), resulting in huge direct and indirect costs for Ontario employers.
From 2003-2007, Ontario’s workers compensation system approved more than 187,000 musculoskeletal claims that resulted in time lost from work. This equates to approximately, 37,500 MSD claims per year. These claims meant over two and a half million days when workers were off and direct costs of more than $314 million.
It is estimated that from 2003-2007, Ontario’s employers paid more than $1 billion in direct and indirect costs related to MSDs. Examples of indirect costs include overtime, equipment modifications, administration, retraining and lost productivity.
There is a strong link between exposure to the work-related risk factors for MSD and the development of these disorders.
These injuries can be prevented! Taking appropriate steps to eliminate, or reduce the exposure to the work-related risk factors, will minimize the risk of MSDs in the workplace.
MSD prevention can be simple and inexpensive. Often making straight-forward and basic changes can reduce MSD risks significantly.
As with almost all health and safety issues it is less expensive to prevent an injury than it is to make changes and corrections after an injury has occurred. Don’t wait for an MSD to happen. Taking proactive steps now to reduce your workers’ exposure to MSD risk factors will pay off in the future.
Having a program to prevent MSDs has been shown to have many positive outcomes:
Regardless of whether or not workers have reported MSD symptoms, or whether or not they have filed WSIB claims, MSD prevention needs to be a key part of a workplace health and safety program. MSD risk factors should be handled like any other workplace hazard. Employers should:
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires employers to ensure that workers are aware of the hazards associated with the workers’ job and workplace, and that controls are implemented to reduce the risk of injury from these hazards. MSD risk factors in the workplace must be treated the same as any other workplace hazard.
The Ministry of Labour enforces Ontario’s labour laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). During workplace visits Ministry inspectors will be asking questions about the steps your organization has taken to prevent workers from developing MSDs.
The MOL’s Safe at Work Ontario compliance strategy has a specific focus on increasing the number of proactive inspections made by MOL ergonomists. In addition, annual MSD blitzes will heighten enforcement of MSD hazards.
To get more information on how to develop and implement an MSD prevention program, contact your health and safety association.
Consultants are also available to help organizations get started with an MSD prevention program. A directory of consultants is available on the Association of Canadian Ergonomists’ website at: ACE Consultants Directory
MSDs account for:
In many cases it is easy to see the MSD risks in your workplace. Here are some things to look for:
Involving workers and listening to their concerns is critical when it comes to preventing MSDs in the workplace.
Workers know their jobs and they know what parts of the job cause them pain, discomfort or fatigue and frustration. That is why it is important to involve your workers in the process of identifying, assessing and controlling MSD risk factors in the workplace.
A participative approach is proven to be successful because it allows workers to suggest innovative, practical, low cost solutions.