Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system and can affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and/or spinal discs that may be caused or aggravated by various hazards in the workplace. The way that a job is carried out or organized can increase the risk of developing an MSD, so it is important to recognize hazards such as repetition, forceful exertion, awkward body positions and contact stress that may be present. Often these hazards are associated with manual material handling activities, such as lifting/lowering, pushing/pulling and carrying or holding materials.
According to 2009 MOL data, MSD injuries account for 44% of all lost-time claims and 41% of all lost time injury claim costs, translating into 913,000 days lost and WSIB claims totalling at $112 million1. Due to the potential to affect so many, the MOL will conduct an inspection blitz on MSDs during the month of February. This is the third consecutive year the MOL will conduct an MSD blitz, this time however, the blitz will focus on manual material handling activities in the industrial, construction, mining and health care sectors.
To help employers prevent MSD injuries related to manual material handling activities and prepare for the MOL blitz, it is critical that potential hazards are identified in the workplace. WSPS has developed an MSD Hazards Checklist as a first step toward prevention. This checklist will help you to quickly determine the MSD hazards that are present in your workplace.
In addition, your workplace can further prepare for the blitz by following these steps and tools:
Step 1: Recognition
Determine if there have been any injuries related to material handling;
Identify where the lifting/lowering, pushing/pulling or carrying tasks occur in the workplace;
Observe these tasks and talk to workers that are performing the work.
Step 2: Assessment
If a lifting/lowering, or a pushing/pulling hazard is identified in Step 1, determine whether the weights or force levels exceed the recommended guidelines outlined in the Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) Prevention Series (Part 3B: Beyond the Basics);
Watch for contributing factors such as twisting while handling material, inability to fully grasp material and having to extend the reach to grasp or place the material. These factors may lower the acceptable weight or force levels recommended.
Step 3: Control
If Step 1 and 2 have revealed that a risk of developing an MSD is present, control measures must be put in place.
Engineering controls, such as providing a mechanical means to move the material or reducing its weight, should always be looked at first to reduce or eliminate the hazard;
Administrative controls, such as adjusting work schedules, pace, or practices including training on how to lift specific materials, will help to reduce the exposure duration;
Personal Protective Equipment, such as gloves for a better grip or footwear for better floor friction, may also be required. Back belts are not considered to be PPE, and are not recommended.
For more information, review the MSD Hazard Risk Assessment Checklist, for an initial workplace assessment This checklist contains tables for maximum acceptable weights and forces, and is part of the MSD Prevention Series (Part 3B: Beyond the Basics) that will be used by MOL inspectors during blitz visits!
Give WSPS a call at 1-877-494-WSPS (9777) to have one of our ergonomists advise you on the steps of recognition, assessment and control and assist you in developing a solid MSD prevention program for your workplace.
For additional information, visit our Musculoskeletal Disorders topic page.
1 Blitz Results: Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders (All sectors). Safe at Work Ontario – Ontario Ministry of Labour. http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/sawo/blitzes/blitz_report23.php.