Hierarchy of Controls



Level in Hierarchy





Eliminate Hazard

Remove the source of the MSD hazard to eliminate exposure.

  • Effective and no further action is required
  • Most practical and cost effective in the design phase
  • May not be possible
  • Powered roller conveyor instead of carrying boxes

Substitute Hazard

Replace with another approach that reduces the risk of MSD.

  • Can be almost as effective as elimination
  • Substitution may still have risks of MSD
  • Re-balancing similar work tasks throughout a production line to reduce cumulative exposure to MSD hazards

Engineering Controls

Modify the design of the physical workplace to remove or block the MSD hazard from the worker by machinery, tools or equipment.

  • Effective long-term controls
  • Used by all workers
  • If installed and maintained, sustainable control of exposure to hazards
  • May appear expensive compared to administrative controls
  • Implementing lift assist devicess, powered hand tools, etc.
  • Removing obstructions or adding adjustability features

Administrative Controls

Changes to the work organization and work practices to reduce exposure to MSD hazards, such as job rotation, pace of work, training, breaks, etc.

  • A wide range of controls are available
  • May not require physical changes to the workplace
  • Worker is still exposed to the hazard at some level
  • Resources required for monitoring adherence
  • Training and retraining
  • Job rotation schedules can reduce exposure time to MSD hazards

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Barriers between the worker and the hazard that are worn by the worker

  • Considered cost effective
  • Requires little change to the workplace or work organization
  • Ongoing costs for new PPE
  • Resources required for adherence to wearing PPE
  • Many types of PPE not shown to be effective for MSD even under good conditions
  • Only some anti-vibration gloves and knee pads shown to be effective
  • "Back belts” not shown to be effective as a general workplace control






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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