Hazards involving manual materials handling that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of a month-long blitz in February 2012 at workplaces across Ontario.
The increased enforcement is part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy, launched in June 2008.
MSDs are injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons, nerves and spinal discs, etc. They can develop as a result of ongoing exposure to such things as repetitive work, forceful exertions such as heaving lifting, carrying and awkward postures that can affect the bones, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues.
Ministry inspectors will visit workplaces in all sectors, including construction, health care, industrial and mining. They will check for MSD hazards involving materials that are lifted, lowered, carried, pushed or pulled by hand.
Inspectors will also check for MSD hazards involving the handling of clients at health care workplaces.
MSDs can occur in any type of workplace. In 2010, they accounted for 42 per cent of all WSIB lost-time injuries, 40 per cent of new claim costs and 43 per cent of days lost at work in Ontario, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
In 2010, this amounted to:
- 25,630 lost-time MSD injuries
- a loss of more than 739,000 working days; and
- More than $92 million in medical and WSIB costs from new claims in 2010.
Inspectors will visit types of workplaces known to have high-frequencies of MSDs injuries and/or hazards.
- Construction: Inspectors will focus on the homebuilding (high-rise and low-rise) and industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sectors.
- Healthcare: Inspectors will focus on hospitals, long-term care homes (homes for nursing care), and retirement homes (homes for residential care).
- Industrial: Any industrial workplace may be visited, but inspectors will pay particular attention to factories and other workplaces with physically demanding manual handling tasks.
- Mining: Any mining operation may be visited as a part of the blitz.
Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, if they find violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.
Inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:
- Construction Sector: Inspectors will check on masonry, rod working, roofing, and electrical work in the homebuilding (low-rise and high-rise) and the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors. They will focus on the moving and storage of materials, housekeeping, access and egress to work locations, work being done on ladders and maintenance of vehicles, machinery, and equipment that could lead to extra physical demands.
- Healthcare Sector: Inspectors will check on tasks such as lifting and lowering of items, pushing and pulling of objects as well as the use and maintenance of carts in support service areas such as housekeeping, food preparation and maintenance. They will also check on the lifting, repositioning and transferring of patients.
- Industrial Sector: Inspectors will check on tasks such as lifting and lowering of items, handling of materials on ladders, and pushing and pulling of objects. They will also check on whether work carts are being safely transported and whether storage areas are being organized and stocked properly to avoid unnecessary handling of items.
- Mining Sector: Inspectors will check on how items are being stored and transported, how items such as supplies and equipment are being handled, and whether devices are being used to assist in the handling of objects.