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McGuinty Government Working To Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Issued: March 2, 2011
  • Content last reviewed: March 2011
  • See also: Bulletin

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

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

MSDs can occur in any type of workplace. They account for 44 per cent of all lost-time injury claims in Ontario. In 2009, these resulted in:


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 April 2009, the Ministry of Labour conducted an MSD enforcement blitz, in which inspectors checked for hazards leading to the onset of MSD at construction, industrial, healthcare and mining workplaces across Ontario.

Between mid-September to mid-November 2010, the ministry conducted a two-month MSD hazards enforcement blitz that targeted workplaces in the construction, health care, industrial and mining sectors.

  • Industrial — inspectors focussed on MSD hazards related to retail operations, including lifting and carrying
  • Health care — inspectors focussed on hospital MSD hazards, including workstation layout; lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients; and appropriate engagement of the Joint Health and Safety Committee
  • Construction — inspectors concentrated on MSD hazards at homebuilding worksites, including safe access to the site, and safe lifting and carrying of materials
  • Mining — inspectors focused on underground and surface operations, including MSD hazards related to vehicle operation.

During the two-month MSD blitz, inspectors paid 3,350 visits to 2,778 workplaces and issued 8,851 orders, of which 2,403 (27 per cent) were related specifically to MSD hazards, two-thirds more than during the one-month MSD blitz in 2009.

Overall, the most common orders issued were time-based (not immediate stop-work) and were for training, maintaining equipment, keeping floors free from obstacles, materials handling and taking every precaution reasonable under the circumstances for the protection of 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.

Prevent Pain & Strains Poster

The ministry has created a colour poster that is available for download and printing for workplace use and stakeholder distribution. The poster was created with the WSIB, and the health and safety associations. It is available in 15 languages, from Croatian to Chinese.