Small Business Owner or Manager

Rights and responsibilities

Image depicting a man wearing a chef's uniform to highlight a small business owner.

The responsibilities of small business owner are the same as for any other sized organization. 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.“  For more information, please see the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

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 Small Business Owners


  • 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 evidence that physical factors in the workplace greatly increase a person’s chance of developing an MSD and make worse an existing MSD on return to work.  Despite this evidence, it is common to ignore the contribution of the workplace and blame a worker’s low back or shoulder pain on individual factors such as “gardening”, “susceptibility” or “genetics” instead. This argument does not take away from the substantial and separate contribution of workplace MSD hazards to the development and worsening of MSD.


  • There are specific approaches to recognizing, assessing MSD hazards and selecting and implementing controls. Training on these specific topics by competent instructors should be done. Participation of workers in MSD Prevention activities is especially important. Key MSD hazards include high forces exerted by workers, awkward postures, repetition, vibration, local contact stress and cold. One or more of these are seen in tasks such as lifting from the floor; twisting when lifting; working with arms overhead; gripping or holding objects or tools for extended periods, especially in a non-power grip; using vibrating tools; prolonged standing and long hours working with a computer.


  • Job rotation, “lifting properly” and most types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by themselves have not been shown to be effective as MSD controls. None of them should be used as the only control for MSD hazards: changing the work and or its organization is necessary.


  • Supportive behaviour is critical to prevent any disability from MSD increasing as well as during the return to work process. Support in the form of demonstration of empathy and consideration are important.

Small business owners may find the following sections of the Guideline of most interest:

  • The Quick Start Guide 

    • This resource is written in non-technical language and may be useful in recognizing some key aspects of workplaces that are important for the development of MSD.


MSD prevention site factsheet

What's New?

Welcome to the new MSD Prevention Guideline site. We are working hard to develop it further. Look out for new content, including more "Hazards and Controls" . 


MSD prevention site factsheet

Introduction Factsheet

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


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Success Stories

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


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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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