MSDs: first MOL blitz of 2012

Dec 13, 2011

MSDs: first MOL blitz of 2012In February, the Ministry of Labour will conduct a month-long inspection blitz on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This MSD blitz, the ministry's third, will concentrate on manual material handling, especially in the industrial, construction, mining, and health care sectors.

MSDs are a primary compensable injury in every sector involving manual material handling and repetitive movement. By taking steps to reduce the risks of MSD injuries now, your workplace can better protect your workers and be prepared for the upcoming inspection.

MSDs are injuries of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs. They result from forceful exertion, awkward body positions, hand-arm and whole-body vibration, contact stress, and repetitive tasks. MSDs often take time to develop and can lead to chronic back pain, shoulder problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.

In Ontario, 2009 claims statistics show that MSDs accounted for 44% of all lost-time claims, 44% of all lost-time days, and 41% of all lost-time claim costs. In 2009, this translated into 913,000 days lost and more than 28,000 Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims worth $112 million1. These injuries cost companies money, and cost workers pain and suffering.

If an inspector arrives

Here's what you can expect: the inspector will perform an administrative review including looking at

  • how your workplace lives up to its roles under the Internal Responsibility System
  • your MSD injury statistics
  • joint health and safety committee (JHSC) minutes
  • written procedures and training on MSD hazards, signs, symptoms and controls.

Employers are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from hazards, including those that may result in MSD injuries. For more on employers' obligations, refer to the MSD prevention guideline (see " Downloads," below).

MOL inspectors don't wait for excuses, or even reasons, for non-compliance. The best strategy is preparation:

  • familiarize yourself with MSD hazards in your workplace
  • perform your own workplace audit
  • have a well-documented MSD program visibly in place, and implement MSD-specific strategies, tools and training
  • call us to review hazards before an inspector comes knocking (see "How we can help").

Implementing MSD controls

Reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries at your workplace involves recognizing, assessing and controlling the hazards. These controls should be specific to the type of work you do. Here are a few suggestions:

  • early in the design phase of a new process or task, apply ergonomic principles, e.g., reducing repetitive movements, forceful movements, and fixed or awkward positioning
  • provide material handling equipment, such as carts, dollies, pallet jacks, or manual forklifts, and ensure workers receive appropriate training
  • train workers on proper lifting techniques
  • implement safer handling alternatives. For example:
    • avoid lifting loads from the floor by storing objects above standing knuckle height and below standing shoulder height
    • avoid working on the floor, which usually requires kneeling and bending your back forward, by using a workbench to raise the work height
    • minimize work above the shoulders. Shoulder and arm muscles tire more quickly than those in the back and legs
    • encourage more trips with lighter loads. Moving smaller weights more frequently puts less stress on the back than moving larger weights
  • implement an exercise program. It can help prevent MSDs and promote general good health
  • evaluate the effectiveness of these controls once they have been implemented, and adjust as indicated.

Learnings from previous MSD blitzs

The ministry conducted blitzes for two months in fall 2010 and one month in spring 2009. Here's an at-a-glance look at the results.

20092 and 20103 MSD Blitz Results
Year Visits/Orders Focus (Industrial Sector) Most Common Orders
2009 1,593/4,541 Handling tasks, e.g., receiving and storage of products • how they were stored on racks • ease of access to products in walk-in refrigerators/ freezers • how products were transported throughout the facility • cashiers' work stations • written policies and procedures • related training and supervision Providing information, instruction and supervision to workers • conducting a risk assessment • having a written policy or program for doing certain hazardous tasks • ensuring workers are not endangered when handling materials • developing measures / procedures in consultation with the JHSC • putting measures and procedures in writing
2010 3,550/8,851 Manual lifting and carrying on ladders • manual lifting of heavy objects by more than one worker • unnecessarily repetitive manual lifting, pushing, carrying • use and transportation of work carts • layout of cashier workstations Training • maintaining equipment • keeping floors free from obstacles • materials handling • taking every precaution reasonable under the circumstances for protecting workers

What the law requires

Numerous sections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations relate to MSD prevention and ergonomics. Among them are

  • 25 2(a) — provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker
  • 25 1(b) — employer shall ensure that equipment provided by the employer is maintained in good condition
  • 25(2)(h) — employer shall take every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker
  • 45 (a) of the Industrial Establishments Regulation (O. Reg. 851) — the employer shall ensure that the objects required to be lifted, carried or moved in the bagging area, shall be lifted, carried or moved in such a way and with such precautions and safeguards as will ensure that the lifting, carrying or moving of the bags does not endanger the safety of any worker
  • 37 of the construction regulations (O. Reg. 213/91) — material or equipment at a project shall be stored and moved in a manner that does not endanger a worker

How we can help

Visit the Musculoskeletal Disorders topic page for additional information and resources.