|Employer/Manager Workers Small Business Supervisor JHSC Member Health and Safety Ergonomist Healthcare Professional Engineering Professional|
In Ontario, “Supervisors are responsible for making workers fully aware of the hazards that may be encountered on the job or in the workplace; ensuring that they work safely, responding to any of the hazards brought to their attention, including taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” For more information, please refer to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Internal Responsibility System (IRS).
People differ in the level of MSD hazard that causes problems for them, just like any other occupational hazard such as noise. 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. If multiple people show similar patterns of pain doing comparable work, there is a strong likelihood that a substantial MSD hazard is present in their work.
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.
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) 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 is necessary.
Supportive supervisor behaviour is critical to prevent any disability from MSD increasing and during return to work. Empathy and consideration are important demonstrations of support.
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.