Hierarchy of Controls

Level in Hierarchy





Eliminate hazard

After MSD hazard is identified, the best solution is to eliminate it

  • Effective and no further action is required
  • May not be possible
  • Powered roller conveyor instead of carrying boxes

Substitute hazard

The hazard can be substituted with another approach that creates smaller MSD risks

  • Can be almost as effective as elimination
  • Substitution may still have risks of MSD
  • Ceiling lift for patients in hospital instead of manual transfer BUT high loading on shoulders to push lift with the patient in it

Engineering controls

Design of the physical workplace to reduce MSD hazards 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
  • Changing tools or modifying power or hand tools
  • Removing obstructions or adding adjustability

Administrative controls

Changes to work organization such as

  • work hours
  • breaks
  • job rotation
  • A wide range of controls is available
  • May not require physical changes to the workplace
  • Resources required for adherence
  • Training and retraining
  • Break scheduling shown to be effective for MSD prevention

Training and awareness

Designed to change a workers’ knowledge or behaviour such as

  • hazard awareness training
  • training in work methods
  • Hazard awareness and knowledge are required under some legislation
  • Ongoing costs associated with training
  • Ongoing costs of providing PPE
  • Resources required for monitoring adherence
  • "Lift Training” or “Job rotation” not shown to be effective for MSD prevention
  • Training in the USE of a specific control is critical for their effectiveness in MSD prevention (and safety)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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

  • Considered cheap
  • 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.


Sad Face Icons

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.



Question mark



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.



Click to view page content references

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):
Search Icon