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Executive Summary

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

Nearly half of all lost time claims registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Steps to address this serious issue were taken by the previous Minister of Labour, Christopher Bentley, on February 28, 2005, when he announced the formation of a special advisory committee to examine ergonomic issues in Ontario. The mandate of the Ergonomics Sub-Committee was to examine strategies to address in Ontario and to provide the Minister with recommendations.

The Sub-Committee met seven times, from March to September 2005 and heard formal presentations from experts in ergonomic practices and regulation that assisted in formulating its recommendations.

Overview of MSD Prevention

The Sub-Committee recognizes that MSD prevention requires a multi-faceted approach due to the complex nature of MSD. A proactive approach and early intervention strategies are integral to the reduction and elimination of the incidence of work-related MSD. Ergonomics should also be a key consideration in the return to work process. The Sub-Committee is supportive of the coordinated approach to MSD prevention being proposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO), composed of the Ministry of Labour, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Health and Safety Associations. Stakeholder input into the development and implementation of the coordinated approach is essential.

Recommendations are grouped into four main themes:

I. Theme: Research and Knowledge Transfer

The Sub-Committee recommends a common definition and classification system of MSD to assist in tracking MSD for both the health and safety system and stakeholders. Funding should continue for research undertaken by various organizations on MSD prevention, and a balanced approach should be taken between applied and pure research.

II. Theme: Education, Outreach and Best Practices

The level of awareness and knowledge of ergonomics needs to be substantially expanded. In addition to increasing the number of trained ergonomists in Ontario, it is necessary to integrate ergonomics into the training of professionals such as engineers and health care practitioners as well as into skilled trades training. Increasing the knowledge of ergonomics within the workplace for employers, supervisors, workers and health and safety committees and representatives would improve the internal resolution of issues. There should be an expansion of guidance information and other materials to assist in the purchase, design and selection of equipment, tools and work processes. This information should be readily available in a variety of formats for easy access.

III. Theme: Enforcement and Motivators

Ontario should implement an approach that motivates good performance as well as an ability to detect when insufficient efforts to prevent MSD are being taken. This includes a balance of WSIB premium-based penalties and incentives as well as increasing the level of ergonomics knowledge of MOL inspectors and incorporating MSD hazards into enforcement targeting strategies. In addition, a process should be developed to ensure orders related to MSD prevention issued by MOL inspectors and ergonomists are clearly identified in the Ministry's database for tracking purposes.

IV. Theme: Standards (including regulation)

The Sub-Committee supports the integration of ergonomic principles into national and international standards. An inventory and an evaluation of existing standards would assist workplace parties in their efforts to reduce MSD. The Sub-Committee continues to discuss the merits, possible principles and scope of a regulation. This will be the subject of a supplementary report to be provided to the Minister by mid-January 2006.

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