Workers and Workers' Representatives

Rights and responsibilities

Group of workers completing office based computing tasks.

In Ontario, workers have the right to information, knowledge of hazards and to refuse unsafe work. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives workers the right to participate, the right to know, and the right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous to either their own health and safety or that of another worker. 

In Ontario, “Worker responsibilities include: reporting hazards in the workplace; working safely and following safe work practices; using the required personal protective equipment for the job at hand; participating in health and safety programs established for the workplace.”  Please refer to the Internal Responsibility System (IRS).

Five Fast MSD Facts for Workers and Workers’ Representatives


  • 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 work to the development and worsening of MSD.


  • Participation of workers in MSD Prevention activities is especially important for success. Workers can feel the effects of their work on their bodies: either as high effort, fatigue or pain. They therefore have information that no one else in the organization knows about. Report jobs or tasks that overload your bodies to your supervisors.


  • Specific approaches to recognizing and assessing MSD hazards, and selecting and implementing controls exist. Workers should receive basic training on these topics by competent instructors so they can participate effectively in prevention activities. 


  • 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 in preventing an MSD. None of them should be used as the only control for MSD hazards: changing the work is necessary. 

Workers and Workers’ Representatives may find the following sections of the Guideline of 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.

  • Participation of workers  

    • Participation of workers in MSD Prevention activities is especially important for success.

  • About 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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