Quick Start Guideline: General


This general guideline is intended for any type of workplace. For office work, please refer to the companion document: Quick Start Guideline: Office


Back and shoulder pain, tennis elbow and other Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) are a major cause of workplace pain, discomfort, disability and costs. Help workers in pain now – and prevent it in the future – by improving your workplace. Eliminating MSD hazards is one part of creating a safe workplace.


Small changes can make a big difference! A workplace free of MSD hazards protects workers now, allows injured workers to return to their jobs more easily, and allows more people to perform those jobs: male or female; old or young; tall or short.



Three parts of the Quick Start Guideline: General


1. Quick Start Guideline: folder

The PDF creates a folder that can hold the mini-posters and gives information about MSD and Prevention and how to use the mini-posters. The folder and mini-posters together are a self-contained resource.

Quick Start Guideline folder (PDF)


2. Quick Start Guideline: mini-posters

  1. STORE IT OFF THE FLOOR: Store – and work on – objects between hip and chest height.
  2. KEEP IT CLOSE: Store objects or work close to the belly button.
  3. HANDS BELOW HEAD: Work with hands below the head.
  4. LOOK STRAIGHT AHEADWork with the head straight and level.
  5. GET A (GOOD) GRIP: Tools and gloves should fit the hands, keep hands and wrists strong. 
  6. CHANGE IT UP: A well-organized job has variety and pauses that give the body time to recover.
  7. WORK SHOULDN’T HURT: Find jobs that may have MSD hazards.

Quick Start Guideline mini posters (PDF)


3. Quick Start Guideline: 11” x 17’’ poster

Use the 11” x 17’’  poster in the lunchroom or on the Health & Safety board to alert workers to potential MSD hazards in their work and their relationship to pain and discomfort. 

Quick Start Guideline 11" x 17" poster (PDF)


The mini-posters describe six common MSD workplace hazards. Please see Work and MSD Hazards for a more complete description of MSD hazards.


Employers are responsible for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. This includes improving the workplace and implementing measures to protect workers from all hazards, including those related to musculoskeletal disorders.


How to use the posters?


  • Use the posters as guides during workplace walkthroughs and inspections. On the back of the poster, write observations and ideas about possible fixes for hazards.

  • Use the posters as a script to aid workers, supervisors and others during safety or toolbox talks. Use the discussion to brainstorm possible fixes.

  • Use the posters in the lunchroom or on the Health & Safety board to alert workers to potential MSD hazards in their work and their relationship to pain and discomfort.

  • As a reminder to keep looking for improvements!


Each poster describes a common workplace hazard that can lead to an MSD. It also gives ideas on how to fix it. MSD hazards can be found in all sizes of workplaces and in all sectors. You may recognize some or all six hazards in your workplace. This tells you that your workplace needs a plan for MSD prevention action. 



 What do the colours mean?




Making a start


Starting is the most important part of reducing back pain, shoulder tendinitis, tennis elbow and other Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD). This package will give you a good start. Some of the ideas may seem very simple, but you can substantially reduce MSD hazards by applying these ideas throughout your workplace (and at home).


The mini-posters give you the general idea behind the solution. For example, STORE IT OFF THE FLOOR shows how to store objects. It’s the same rule for storing boxes in an office, moving parts in manufacturing, or setting up stands and work surfaces for heavy tasks in construction.




  • Jump straight in. Start using these posters in your workplace inspections and toolbox talks and make changes to remove or reduce any hazards identified.

  • Follow the steps below for a more systematic approach.



Next Steps


Want to go further in your MSD prevention activities? Go to the Basic Guideline



Want help?


There are many websites with straightforward fixes for MSD hazards and many groups and organizations that you can turn to for information and help. There are several partners within Ontario Health and Safety Systems that provide general and sector specific support. Here is the list of these partners:



There are other organizations that provide information regarding MSD prevention. These include but are not limited to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries in the USA that has collected a wide range of fixes for MSD hazards that is searchable by sector and hazard.



This guide was written to help small and very small businesses make sure that workers can go home without pain. It is a part of a larger initiative: the MSD Prevention Guideline.





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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