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Committee Findings

  • Issued: September 2005
  • Content last reviewed: June 2009

Overview of MSD Prevention

An Ergonomics Approach

MSD prevention requires a multi-faceted approach. The Sub-Committee believes that the application of ergonomics in the workplace is key to reducing the incidence of work-related MSD and is needed in all sectors, including industrial establishments, construction, mining, and health care.

Workplace parties need to identify MSD issues early to allow for effective implementation of prevention strategies. Senior management that embraces a culture of healthy and safe workplaces is essential in leading others and instilling a positive approach. Good health and safety performance is good business. Another integral part of prevention involves designers and manufacturers of tools, equipment and work processes that will be used in the workplace.

The Sub-Committee encourages and supports the integration of effective disability management within health and safety systems. Ergonomics should be a key consideration in the return to work process.

The Health and Safety System

The Sub-Committee is generally supportive of the initiatives in the document from OHSCO titled "Prevention Strategy for Musculoskeletal Disorders in Ontario". Obtaining stakeholder input is critical.

The role of the Ministry of Labour in setting, communicating, and enforcing workplace standards, the role of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in educating, promoting and fostering healthy and safe workplaces and a prevention culture, and the role of the Health and Safety Associations in the development and provision of training programs, products and services to Ontario's employers and workers are all important in the prevention of MSD.

I. Research and Knowledge Transfer

The application and dissemination of research information within industry is a key component in increasing knowledge of ergonomic issues and reducing MSD. Research organizations such as IWH and CRE-MSD can provide research knowledge that can be used towards reducing work-related MSD in Ontario. Research funding related to MSD prevention is provided by the WSIB's Research Advisory Council and other organizations.

The Sub-Committee supports:

  • The OHSCO MSD definition and use of common claim codes to analyze and track MSD; stakeholder consultation is required to refine the process.
  • Continued dialogue across Canada and internationally among ergonomists, health and safety experts, and stakeholders on the development and coordination of research related to MSD and sharing best practices.
  • A balanced approach between applied and pure research.

The Sub-Committee recommends:

  • Standardized use of injury and illness classification systems to analyze and track MSD in Ontario for both the system partners and for stakeholders (including employers, workers and the research community).
  • Funding continue for research undertaken by organizations including IWH and CRE-MSD, on MSD prevention and supports.

II. Education, Outreach and Best Practices

Education involves increasing the level of knowledge and awareness through training for workplace parties, including employers, supervisors, workers, students and apprentices, health and safety representatives, and Joint Health and Safety Committee members. Outreach is the mechanism for disseminating knowledge through workplace contacts, printed material, and information campaigns. Best practices include specific examples of successful implementation of processes and practices, tools and methods to reduce MSD risk factors.

The Sub-Committee supports:

  • The OHSCO MSD prevention strategy to raise general awareness and motivate prevention activity in Ontario workplaces. This should include a knowledge transfer component making information on ergonomics easily accessible to all workplaces (e.g. web access). It should also include coordination of awareness efforts such as posters and advertisements, to reinforce responsibilities to report work-related injuries to the appropriate agencies.
  • Development of healthy workplaces and the dissemination of information on healthy workplaces primarily focusing on preventing injury and illness, as well as how healthy workplaces create business value. Examples of such programs include those developed by Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Health Network.

The Sub-Committee recommends:

  • Integration of ergonomics into education programs for business, engineering, health care, and skilled trades including integrating ergonomic principles into apprenticeship programs for skilled trades.
  • Increasing education and training programs to expand the number of qualified ergonomists in Ontario, in order to increase the knowledge and skill base accessible to Ontario workplaces.
  • Inclusion of sound ergonomic principles into guides for safe purchasing, design and selection of equipment, tools and work processes that are made available to engineers, designers, employers and others who are involved with design and setup of work and workplaces.
  • MSD information, outreach activities, and education be made available to health care practitioners, including the Ontario Medical Association.
  • Enhanced involvement of WSIB ergonomists in supporting MSD prevention in the workplace, in addition to current return to work activities.
  • Compiling and encouraging refinement of information on the internet to include MSD best practices, case studies, etc. for public access, such as the Ministry of Labour portal and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website.
  • Development of an online inventory of qualified consultation services and training to assist workplaces.

III. Enforcement and Motivators

Enforcement refers to actions by the Ministry of Labour to ensure compliance with the Ministry's MSD prevention requirements. Motivators will encourage employers and workers to take ergonomic issues seriously.

The Sub-Committee supports:

  • The continuation of dialogue among stakeholders and the system partners (HSAs, MOL, WSIB). For example, WSIB and stakeholders are currently discussing workplace health and safety incentives.

The Sub-Committee recommends:

  • The Ministry of Labour ensure it has sufficient ergonomic expertise to support the Ministry's role in MSD prevention.
  • Enhancement of ergonomics training for Ministry inspectors to increase their knowledge and skills. The Ministry should standardize the level of ergonomics training, as well as the guidance, that inspectors receive.
  • Development of Ministry of Labour operational policy/guidance on MSD prevention, including identification of risk factors that may contribute to the development of MSD. A risk-based approach must be taken when evaluating workplaces. Stakeholder input must be considered during each stage of the development of materials.
  • The Ministry develop a process to ensure orders related to MSD prevention issued by inspectors and ergonomists be clearly identified in the Ministry's database, for tracking purposes.
  • The Ministry include a focus on MSD reduction among poor performers within the 'High-Risk' initiative and within the 'Last-Chance' initiative.
  • A balanced approach of WSIB premium-based penalties and incentives.
  • Development of financial assistance for qualifying firms, in order to encourage businesses to invest in efforts to reduce MSD.

IV. Standards (including regulation)

While consensus was not reached on a recommendation related to the development of a regulation, the Sub-Committee entered into extensive discussions on the merits and possible principles and scope of a regulation. For this reason, labour and employer representatives will be participating in further meetings to attempt to reach agreement on some or all of these issues related to a regulation. A supplement to the report on this issue will be delivered to the Minister by mid-January 2006. Regardless of the outcome of these additional meetings, the Sub-Committee feels very strongly that the other recommendations remain a priority for action and should not be delayed in the absence of agreement on the issue of regulation. The implementation of these recommendations is essential to reducing the occurrence of MSD, regardless of whether a regulation is to be developed.

The Sub-Committee supports:

  • Integration of ergonomic principles into national and international standards and management systems.
  • MSD prevention taking a 'risk-based approach' that allows flexibility for a wide variety of workplaces and tasks.

The Sub-Committee recommends:

  • Development of an inventory of existing ergonomic standards and tools (e.g., Canadian Standards Association Guideline on Office Ergonomics, NIOSH Lifting Guideline, Snook and Ciriello Tables), including advantages and disadvantages of each to help provide workplaces with practical and effective information. The OHSCO sub-committee should consider including this in its strategy.

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