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Inspection blitz targets sprains, strains


The Ontario Ministry of Labour has announced that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of its next safety inspection blitz, in September and October. This means businesses may be visited by a ministry inspector looking for hazards that put your employees at risk for sprains and strains.

Inspectors will pay particular attention to tasks requiring workers to use their muscles to exert force to lift, push or carry items. Many of these tasks will already have been identified through an analysis of types of workplaces with a high frequency of MSD injuries and hazards.

No Excuses
Inspectors don’t wait for excuses. The best strategy is preparation:
1. Familiarize yourself with MSD (soft-tissue injury) hazards in your workplace.
2. Perform your own workplace audit.
3. Have a well-documented MSD program visibly in place, and implement MSD-specific strategies, tools and training.
4. Call the IAPA to review hazards before an inspector comes knocking.

Why MSDs are a priority
MSD statistics from the ministry are staggering: direct claim costs due to MSDs from 2003 to 2007 totaled more than $640 million and six million days of lost time, and comprised 43 percent of total lost-time injury costs in 2008, up from 41 percent in 2003.

These numbers have convinced the ministry that companies must be held accountable for exposing workers to risk factors associated with the development of MSDs. Reducing MSDs has also been recognized as a priority for manufacturing in the U.S., and while this blitz is focused on Ontario, companies across Canada should pay attention to MSDs in their own workplaces.

There are several misconceptions about ergonomics, which is all about fitting the work environment to the worker, making better use of the human body’s strengths and limiting the use of the body when it is vulnerable to injury. For example, applying ergonomic principles — reducing repetitive movements, forceful movements, and fixed or awkward positioning — early in the design phase of a new process or task adds little cost, and can prevent many MSDs. In fact, preventing MSD-related compensation claims will save you money.

The ministry’s MSD blitz goals are threefold: enhance MSD enforcement efforts, raise awareness of the importance of addressing MSDs and identify prevention resources available to workplaces through their safe workplace association.

If an inspector arrives, he or she will perform an administrative review including looking at the Internal Responsibility System; MSD injury statistics; joint health and safety committee minutes; and written procedures and training on MSD hazards, signs, symptoms and controls.

Remember: Employers are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from hazards, including those that may result in MSD injuries.


Don Patten, B.HK, CCPE is an ergonomics specialist with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services and president of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists. For details on training and free resources, visit www.iapa.ca.