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BACKGROUNDER

Ontario Government Working to Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders


The new Ontario Government is committed to preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other injuries in Ontario workplaces.

MSDs are injuries to the musculoskeletal system such as muscles, tendons, nerves and spinal discs. They can develop as a result of ongoing exposure to such things as repetitive work, forceful exertions such as heavy lifting and carrying and awkward postures that can affect the bones, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues.

MSDs can occur in any type of workplace. In 2011, they accounted for 41 per cent of all "lost-time injuries" (time missed at work due to injuries), according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

In 2011, there were:

  • Over 23,200 lost-time MSD injuries
  • a loss of more than 530,000 working days and
  • more than $70 million in medical and WSIB costs from new claims

Initiatives

In January 2006, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) launched a Pains and Strains Campaign to:

  • Increase awareness of ergonomics-related injuries
  • Focus more on prevention
  • Enhance training of ministry health and safety inspectors
  • Develop new resource materials
  • Implement better tracking of ergonomics-related inspections, and
  • Increase ergonomic expertise.

In February 2007, the Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO) – comprising the Ministry of Labour, WSIB and Ontario's health and safety associations – released an MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario and an accompanying resource manual. These materials informed workplaces on how to protect workers from ergonomics-related injuries.

In February 2008, OHSCO released an MSD Prevention Toolbox, a resource kit containing examples of MSD prevention information sheets, sample surveys, hazard identification tools and prevention strategies.

In February 2012, the ministry conducted a one-month MSD hazards enforcement initiative that targeted workplaces in the industrial, health care, construction and mining sectors.

  • Industrial — inspectors focused on MSD hazards in factories and other physically demanding workplaces, including lifting and lowering of items, handling of materials on ladders, pushing and pulling of objects, safe transport of work carts, and organizing and stocking of storage areas.
  • Health Care — inspectors focused on MSD hazards in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes, including lifting and lowering of items, pushing and pulling of objects, and on use and maintenance of carts in areas such as housekeeping, food preparation and maintenance.
  • Construction — inspectors focused on MSD hazards involving masonry, rod working, roofing and electrical work in the homebuilding and industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors, including moving and storage of materials, housekeeping, ladder use, maintenance of vehicles, machinery and equipment, and on access and egress to work locations.
  • Mining — inspectors focused on MSD hazards in underground and surface mines, including handling, storage and transport of items and use of devices to assist in the handling.

During the MSD blitz, inspectors conducted 2,041 visits to 1,718 workplaces and issued 4,869 orders, including 303 stop work orders.

Overall, the most common ergonomic-related orders were for violations involving training, materials handling, access to and egress from a work area, maintaining equipment and failure to take every precaution reasonable under the circumstances to protect workers.

Enforcement blitzes are part of the ministry's Safe At Work Ontario strategy, which focuses on:

  • Enforcement
  • Compliance, and
  • Partnership.

Online Interactive Tool

An online tool – featuring a musculoskeletal figure – provides information on how to recognize signs and symptoms of MSDs and suggests what to do about reducing the hazards associated with pains and strains in the workplace.

When users click on various parts of the figure's body, information pops up indicating tasks that may be the cause of an MSD and recommends ways to reduce the hazards.

Resources – Posters and Videos

The ministry has created a number of resources for stakeholders, including four colour posters that are available for download and printing for workplace use and stakeholder distribution. There is a pains and strains poster, which was created with the WSIB, and the health and safety associations and is available in 15 languages (from Croatian to Chinese), a safe lifting poster, an MSD for construction sites poster, and a safe client handling poster. There are also three inspection videos pertaining to what inspectors look for when conducting inspections associated with MSD hazards on the MOL website which include a safe manual materials handling video for industrial workplaces, a safe manual materials handling video for construction projects, and a safe client handling video for health care workplaces.

Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405

ontario.ca/labour-news
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