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Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) at Industrial Workplaces

Safe At Work Ontario
  • Issued: January 2012
  • Content last reviewed: January 2012

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Manual materials handling is a common task for workers in many workplaces. Manual handling can expose workers to hazards resulting in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

MSDs are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. They may be caused or aggravated by various hazards or risk factors in the workplace such as force, fixed or awkward postures, and repetition.

MSDs are the most common workplace injury resulting in over 40 percent of all Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) lost-time injuries in Ontario. Employers are required to protect workers by putting in place controls to prevent hazards.

Preventing MSDs needs to be a key part of every workplace health and safety program. In safe and healthy workplaces, employers:

  • Identify and assess job-related MSD hazards;
  • Put in place controls to reduce workers’ exposure to MSD hazards;
  • Advise and train workers about MSD hazards in their job and workplace;
  • Encourage workers to participate in their workplace’s health and safety program through early reporting of MSD symptoms or concerns to their employer/supervisor; and
  • Follow up to ensure preventative measures are working.

Ministry of Labour inspectors take enforcement action, as appropriate, if they find violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Priority areas

Inspectors check for MSD-related hazards, including:

  • Unsafe manual handling of objects;
  • Unsafe lifting/lowering of items;
  • Unsafe lifting, carrying or moving of items while workers are on ladders;
  • Obstructions in aisles resulting in unnecessary manual handling of items or unnecessary movement of work carts; and
  • Poor maintenance and overstacking of carts, poor maintenance of floor surfaces and other potential hazards involving the pushing and pulling of objects.

See the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services website for more information regarding ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders

More information

Ontario Ministry of Labour, Pains and Strains resources

Occupational Health and Safety Act

View Canadian Standards Association standards referenced in occupational health and safety legislation

Ontario’s Health and Safety Associations

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) ergonomics page

Call toll-free

Call 1-877-202-0008 any time to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. Call 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, for general inquiries about workplace health and safety. Always call 911 in an emergency.

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.