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February safety blitz in Ontario to target muscle and skeletal injuries

Toronto, ON -- Hazards involving manual materials handling that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of a month-long blitz in February 2012 at workplaces across Ontario.


Toronto, ON — Hazards involving manual materials handling that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of a month-long blitz in February 2012 at workplaces across Ontario.

The increased enforcement is part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy, launched in June 2008. Since then, ministry inspectors have conducted more than 266,000 field visits, 36 inspection blitzes and issued more than 426,000 compliance orders.

“We are taking the prevention of these disorders very seriously, not only because they are so commonplace but also because they are so debilitating,” says Linda Jeffrey, Ontario’s Minister of Labour. “Employers must identify the hazards and then work with the employees to eliminate those hazards. Safe and healthy working environments are in everyone’s best interest.”

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

Ministry inspectors will visit workplaces in all sectors, including construction, health care, industrial and mining. They will check for MSD hazards involving materials that are lifted, lowered, carried, pushed or pulled by hand.

MSDs can occur in any type of workplace. In 2010, they accounted for 42% of all WSIB lost-time injuries, 40% of new claim costs and 43% of days lost at work in Ontario, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

In 2010, this amounted to:

– 25,630 lost-time MSD injuries

– a loss of more than 739,000 working days; and

– More than $92 million in medical and WSIB costs from new claims in 2010.

Inspectors will visit types of workplaces known to have high-frequencies of MSDs injuries and/or hazards. That means that any industrial workplace may be visited, but inspectors will pay particular attention to factories and other workplaces with physically demanding manual handling tasks. As well, any mining operation may be visited as a part of the blitz.

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, if they find violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

What they’re looking for

Inspectors will focus on the following key priorities in the industrial sector: Inspectors will check on tasks such as lifting and lowering of items, handling of materials on ladders, and pushing and pulling of objects. They will also check on whether work carts are being safely transported and whether storage areas are being organized and stocked properly to avoid unnecessary handling of items.

In the mining sector, inspectors will check on how items are being stored and transported, how items such as supplies and equipment are being handled, and whether devices are being used to assist in the handling of objects.

Learn more about MSDs and ergonomics at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/topics/pains.php.