Rights and responsibilities


Two workers completing a welding task to highlight a manager training a worker.

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.”



Five Fast Facts for Employers



  • 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.

Employers may find the following sections of the Guideline of interest:


  • Health and Safety Program Development: How to Incorporate MSD Prevention

    • ​Learn how to incorporate MSD prevention steps into your organization’s health and safety program. 

  • Basic Guideline

    • For organizations with a Joint Health and Safety Committee

    • Step-by-step guide including links to specific resources to assist workplaces in MSD prevention activities.

  • Comprehensive Guideline

    • For organizations using Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems such as CSA Z1000, CSA Z1004, ISO 45001.

    • MSD prevention should be integrated into the organization’s management system for maximum effectiveness and sustainability.

    • Written using the structure and language of management systems and includes specific resources to help workplaces in MSD prevention activities.

  • Quick Start Guideline: General 

    • This resource is written in non-technical language and outlines common MSD hazards found in many workplaces.

    • Use the posters as guides during workplace walkthroughs, as a reference for safety or toolbox talks, and on the Health & Safety board.

  • Quick Start Guideline: Office

    • This resources provides solutions to control common MSD hazards in computer-based office work.


Employers may also find the following of interest:







MSD prevention site factsheet

What's New? 


We are working to continuously develop the MSD Prevention Guideline. Watch for new content, including more resources and case studies.



MSD prevention site factsheet



Download the factsheet introducing the MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario website.


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Case Studies 


Read success stories and case studies about preventing MSD. These stories may apply to your workplace and help you make the right decision.



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Frequently asked questions. There are lots of myths about preventing MSD at work. With good information and actions, MSD can be prevented.




WSIB's Health and Safety Excellence Program


Why join?


Keeping your team safe and healthy at work is good for business. WSIB's Health and Safety Excellence program provides a clear roadmap to improve safety in your workplace, whether you're just getting started or want to improve systems and processes you already have in place.


No matter how large or small your business is, the Health and Safety Excellence program can help. Connect with a WSIB-approved provider who can help you address your business’s unique health and safety challenges – and you can earn rebates for the work you do to improve your workplace health and safety. 


Check out the Health and Safety Excellence Program website for more information on the program and the benefits.



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DISCLAIMER: CRE-MSD receives funding through a grant provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.

Workplace Solutions to Back Pain, Shoulder Tendinitis, Tennis Elbow & Other Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD):
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