How ready are you to show a Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspector what your workplace is doing to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)? The MOL has launched a Healthy Workers in Healthy Workplaces Initiative for the fall that focuses on MSDs and respiratory hazards (watch for coverage of respiratory hazards in the October issue of WSPS e-News).
The initiative runs from September 1 to December 27, 2019, with workplace inspections starting October 1. As MSDs are the number one cause of lost-time injuries in Ontario, inspectors will be checking to see if you've taken all reasonable steps to keep them at bay. "Training workers on safe material handling skills and correct postures is one part of that," says WSPS Ergonomics Specialist Don Patten. "But it's not the only part."
About the initiative
MSDs represented approximately one-third of all lost-time claims in 2017. These injuries resulted in:
- 19,000 claims,
- 462,000 days lost from work,
- $72 million in direct WSIB costs.
This initiative will focus on hazards that may lead to MSDs during manual material handling. Hazards such as high forces, awkward postures and repetitive actions commonly occur when workers are required to lift, carry, push, pull or lower materials. This may lead to MSDs, which can be painful and debilitating.
Inspectors will check whether:
- employers have provided training to workers on safe manual material handling practices,
- items are being manually handled in a safe manner,
- items are stored so that they can be placed or withdrawn in a safe manner,
- handling items while on a ladder is being performed safely,
- floor obstructions and/or hazards are not interfering with manual material handling activities.
What you can do to prepare
In advance of the inspections, says Don, "Conduct an administrative review of your program and what you are communicating to employees. Do you have material handling policies and procedures in place? Has your joint health and safety committee reviewed tasks involving heavy loads or awkward postures?"
Supervisors have a role to play too. "There's a misconception that supervisors go around warning people they are lifting improperly," says Don. "That's rare. If a worker is lifting improperly, it's likely more to do with the layout and design of the task or workplace. If workers consistently have a problem maintaining proper posture, it's important to find the root cause that’s preventing people from placing themselves in the proper position for the task."
To prepare for the inspection initiative, encourage supervisors to:
- review history of MSDs injuries/illnesses in the workplace,
- observe employees as they execute their job tasks. Watch for;
- awkward movements or positions,
- straining while lifting, pushing or pulling,
- repetitive tasks,
- lifting heavy objects,
- homemade modifications,
- determine the root cause of the problem,
- put controls in place (e.g. set up work stations and design workflow to minimize awkward postures).
How WSPS can help
- MSDs and Respiratory Hazards Safety Tool Kit produced by WSPS specifically for the Healthy Workers in Healthy Workplaces initiative, this free of charge kit contains links to a helpful recorded webinar, checklists, courses and other handy resources.
- Consulting: Our Ergonomics Specialists can assist you with ergonomic program development, ergonomic assessments and physical demands descriptions. Call 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).
- MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario: Developed by the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) along with Ontario health and safety system partners, this downloadable guideline offers MSD solutions for small, medium and large businesses.