|Employer/Manager Workers Small Business Supervisor JHSC Member Health and Safety Ergonomist Healthcare Professional Engineering Professional|
In Ontario, the employer, typically represented by senior management, has the greatest responsibilities with respect to health and safety in the workplace and is responsible for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. MSD hazards that are present in the workplace must be recognized and precautions put in place to fulfill requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). The Act also requires employers to provide information, instruction and supervision to workers.
In Ontario, “The employer is responsible for ensuring that the IRS [internal responsibility system] is established, promoted, and that it functions successfully. A strong IRS [internal responsibility system] is an important element of a strong health and safety culture in a workplace. A strong health and safety culture shows respect for the people in the workplace.”
MSD hazards are still covered by the “General Duty Clause” (In Ontario, Part III of the OHS Act, 25 (2)(h)). It remains the employer’s responsibility to identify and control these hazards.
There is strong and consistent evidence that physical factors in the workplace and how work is organized greatly increase a person’s chance of developing an MSD. It can also aggravate an existing MSD and hinder return to work. Despite this evidence, it is common to ignore the strong contribution of the workplace and blame workers’ low back or shoulder pain on individual factors such as “gardening”, “susceptibility” or “genetics” instead. This argument does not take away from the separate and independent contribution of work to the development and aggravation of MSD. People differ in the level of MSD hazards that causes problems for them, just like any other occupational hazard. So, reports of pain and discomfort of one or a number of workers act as an early warning sign that some job tasks are overloading parts of the body
There are specific approaches to recognizing and assessing MSD hazards and selecting and implementing controls. Key hazards include lifting from the floor; twisting when lifting; working with arms overhead; holding objects or tools for extended periods, especially in a non- power grip; using vibrating tools; prolonged standing and extended hours working with a computer. Assessment methods range from simple screening questions to quantitative methods. Training on these specific topics by competent instructors should be done. Participation of workers in MSD Prevention activities is especially important.
Controlling MSD hazards by job rotation, “lifting properly”, and most types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has not been shown to be effective. None of them should be used as the only control for MSD hazards. Changing the work is necessary. Removing MSD hazards should not only be thought of as a cost: improving the working situation has been shown to improve efficiency, and the quality of products or services, as well as improving safety.
Providing a supervisor with flexibility in determining accommodations for a worker developing symptoms or returning to work can increase success. Supervisors should have the authority to modify work. This may include shortening work hours, modifying duties, changing equipment, relocating staff, adjusting schedules, authorizing accommodation-related expenses, and facilitating access to medical resources.
This resource is written in non-technical language and may be useful for recognizing some key aspects of workplaces that are important for the development of MSD. Employers may also be useful during safety training or “tail-gate” talks.
Management processes such as Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS) such as CSA Z1000, CSA Z1004, ISO 45001, are receiving more interest in Ontario. It has recently been argued that for maximum effectiveness and sustainability, MSD prevention should be integrated into the organization’s management system. The Guideline is written using the structure and language of management systems. The specific resources to prevent MSD within the management system are identified.
Using Six Sigma for MSD: A case study