Accident Prevention e-News
July 2010
Volume 5/Issue 7/July 2010

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Next inspection blitz: MSDs
By Don Patten

Next inspection blitz: MSDsThe Ministry of Labour has announced that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) will be the focus of its next blitz, in September and October. This means businesses may be visited by a ministry inspector looking for hazards that put your employees at risk for sprains and strains.

This is the second MSD hazards blitz in as many years (see “2009 Blitz Results”). Here's what you need to know, what you need to have in place, and where you can find the tools to help.

Inspectors will pay particular attention to tasks requiring workers to use their muscles to exert force to lift, push or carry items. Many of these tasks will already have been identified through an analysis of types of workplaces with a high frequency of MSD injuries and hazards.

2009 Blitz Results

During the month-long MSD hazards inspection blitz conducted in 2009, inspectors visited 1,593 workplaces, including 1,329 in the industrial sector. Some workplaces were visited more than once.

Inspectors issued 4,541 orders. The most common MSD-related orders required employers to

provide information, instruction and supervision to workers
conduct a risk assessment
have a written policy or program for doing certain hazardous tasks
ensure workers are not endangered when handling materials
develop measures / procedures in consultation with the joint health and safety committee (JHSC)
put measures and procedures in writing

What the Law Requires

Numerous sections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations relate to MSD prevention and ergonomics. Among them are

25 2(a) — provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker
25 1(b) — employer shall ensure that equipment provided by the employer is maintained in good condition
25(2)(h) — employer shall take every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker
45 (a) of the Industrial Establishments Regulation (O. Reg. 851) — the employer shall ensure that the objects required to be lifted, carried or moved in the bagging area, shall be lifted, carried or moved in such a way and with such precautions and safeguards as will ensure that the lifting, carrying or moving of the bags does not endanger the safety of any worker
37 of the construction regulations (O. Reg. 213/91) — material or equipment at a project shall be stored and moved in a manner that does not endanger a worker

Why MSDs are a priority

Let's start with MSD statistics from the ministry, which are staggering:

  • direct claim costs, from 2003 to 2007, of over $640 million and 6 million days of lost time
  • 43% of total lost-time injury (LTI) costs in 2008, up from 41% in 2003
  • 43% of total LTIs in 2008, up 40% from 2003
  • 15% drop in the MSD-related LTI rate from 2003 to 2008, while the total LTI rate dropped 22%

These numbers have convinced the ministry that companies must be held accountable for exposing workers to risk factors associated with the development of MSDs. Reducing MSDs have also been recognized as a priority for manufacturing in the US (see “10 OHS goals for US manufacturing” under the “In the News” banner).

Many jobs have MSD hazards: things about the job or the way the job is done that increase the risk of a worker developing an MSD. So why are some companies so averse to taking action? Is it because of the perceived costs of changes? Perhaps the perceived time required to implement a prevention program?

Whatever the reason, a lot of these thoughts are misconceptions about ergonomics. It's all about fitting the work environment to the worker, making better use of the human body's strengths, and limiting the use of the body when it is vulnerable to injury. For example, applying ergonomic principles — reducing repetitive movements, forceful movements, and fixed or awkward positioning — early in the design phase of a new process or task adds little cost, and can prevent many MSDs. In fact, preventing MSD-related compensation claims will save you money.

Blitz goals

The ministry's MSD blitz goals are threefold: enhance MSD enforcement efforts, raise awareness of the importance of addressing MSDs, and identify prevention resources available to workplaces through their safe workplace association.

If an inspector arrives

Here's what you can expect: the inspector will perform an administrative review including looking at

  • the Internal Responsibility System
  • MSD injury statistics
  • joint health and safety committee minutes
  • written procedures and training on MSD hazards, signs, symptoms and controls

Employers are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from hazards, including those that may result in MSD injuries. The MSD prevention guideline, announced in February 2007, is clear about employers' obligations (see “free downloads,” below).

MOL inspectors don't wait for excuses, or even reasons, for non-compliance. The best strategy is preparation:

  1. familiarize yourself with MSD (soft-tissue injury) hazards in your workplace
  2. perform your own workplace audit
  3. have a well-documented MSD program visibly in place, and implement MSD-specific strategies, tools and training
  4. call us to review hazards before an inspector comes knocking

How we can help

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, the organization created by the amalgamation of IAPA with Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA) and Farm Safety Association (FSA), has 6 ergonomists on staff to assist you with your MSD prevention efforts, including a free consultation.

For a comprehensive list of courses and downloadable resources from IAPA, Prevention System partners, and others, visit IAPA's website. Among the offerings:

  • free downloads. Forms, publications, tools and other resources include:
    • Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) Prevention Series, featuring a guideline, resource manual, and toolbox
    • ergonomic assessments, e.g., discomfort survey, hazard checklist, risk assessment and tool selection checklist
    • hazard tip sheets
    • publications, e.g., Manual Materials Handling, Safe Lifting and Carrying, and more
  • training. IAPA provides a comprehensive portfolio, including:
    • Back Safety 101 Self-Study Training Kit (DVD-based)
    • Building an MSD Prevention Program (4 half-day modules)
    • Manual Materials Handling (on-site)
    • Nuts and Bolts of Implementing an MSD Prevention Program (1-day; also available on-site)
    • Practical Office Ergonomics (on-site workshop)
    • Physical Demands Analysis (on-site workshop)
    • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs): Awareness (free sample e-course)
    • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs): Prevention - available in English and French (e-course)
    • Office Ergonomics in Ontario (e-course)
    • Office Ergonomics - available in English and French (e-course)

More free resources are being developed every day.  Remember to visit our website especially as we get closer to the start of the blitz for specific resources.

Don Patten is an ergonomics specialist with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services; Tel: 905.614.4272, ext. 2520;


Distracted driving: 9,000+ charges

Distracted driving: 9,000+ chargesMore than 9,000 drivers have learned the hard way that law enforcers mean business when it comes to complying with Ontario's new distracted driving law.

Effective February 1, 2010, the Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act now makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices. Mounting research shows that distracted driving is a key contributor to collisions, regardless of age and driving experience.

Going on the offensive, the Toronto Police Services recorded 5,978 offences from February 1 to June 7, as follows:

  • 143: driving with a display screen visible to driver (e.g., watching a DVD, working on a computer)
  • 219: driving with a hand-held entertainment device (e.g., gaming device, iPod)
  • 5,616: driving with a hand-held communications device (e.g., talking or texting)        

Elsewhere in the province, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recorded 3,042 offences from February 1 to May 31.     

Employers take note: if the distraction is work-related (e.g., calling a client, sending an email), you could be held liable.

How to protect your workers and your business? Create, implement and enforce a distracted driving policy.

Don't count on your workers to police themselves. According to an August 2009 survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies, 92% of Ontario drivers claimed they would obey the distracted driving legislation. Anecdotal evidence since then suggests that, while many drivers may have initially complied with the law, they're back to their old habits. OPP Sergeant Tim Burrows agrees. “It's not uncommon,” he says. “New laws often get a lot of attention, but when the attention dies down…”

Looking ahead, Burrows says, “We already have fall seatbelt campaigns and various other safety initiatives throughout the year. I think it's only a matter of time before we see some sort of significant police education campaign around the use of electronic devices while driving.”

Creating a workplace policy

OHS lawyers Cheryl A. Edwards and Jeremy Warning of Heenan Blaikie advise employers to set out in a written policy their expectations, including parameters for acceptable use of devices and consequences for violations. Consider the following:

  • keep the policy and devices covered broad and inclusive. Numerous devices can fall under highway traffic bans and definitions of “wireless hand-held communication device,” so draft the policy so that it covers all such technology, not just cell phones. For example, include visible display screens of televisions, computers or other devices, and entertainment devices
  • make sure the policy covers everyone in the workplace (workers, supervisors, contractors, management, etc.) and the use of all devices, both personal and business related, during working hours
  • ensure that all prohibited uses are clearly set out, including while driving or engaged in particular tasks such as operating equipment or machinery
  • provide for permitted uses. Set out when and where the devices can be used (i.e., when pulled over to the side of the road, or when using hands-free mode). If permitting use in hands-free mode is determined to be acceptable, consider supplying employees with hands-free technology and providing training on its use.
  • provide an environment where it is acceptable for employees to be out of contact while they focus on driving. Let employees know that an email does not have to receive an instant response, and that calls should be put through to voicemail until drivers are safely stopped off road. Where employees may be driving for a prolonged period of time, the policy could suggest that they consider stopping periodically at a safe location such as a parking lot or legal street parking spot, to retrieve emails and voicemails and respond to those that require a response before the employees reach their destination.

Cheryl A. Edwards, a former OHS prosecutor, is a partner in Heenan Blaikie LLP's Labour and Employment Group and lead in the firm's national OHS & Workers' Compensation Practice Group;; 416.360.2897. Jeremy Warning is a senior associate in Heenan Blaikie LLP's Labour and Employment Group and a member of the firm's national Occupational Health & Safety & Workers' Compensation Practice Group. Jeremy is a former OHS prosecutor and a co-author of the Annotated Occupational Health and Safety Act, a leading text used by lawyers, human resource and health and safety professionals;; 416.643.6946.

Online health survey: workplaces included

Online health survey: workplaces includedAn ambitious health study — the largest of its type ever conducted in Canada — enters a new phase this summer in which people from all across the province can participate online. Researchers have an express interest in worker participation, either as individuals or as part of a larger workplace group.

Participation in the Ontario Health Study is open to all adults, ages 35 to 69, residing anywhere in Ontario.

The study will track up to 150,000 people over 20 years in an effort to advance understanding of major risk factors for cancer, as well as cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. A pilot phase, begun in spring 2009, involved collecting data from 8,000 participants. These data will set a baseline for the project.

Ontario Health Study Overview

Project: a 20-year study aiming to identify contributing factors — genetic, environmental, occupational, etc. — that cause chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease

Purpose: find ways to help prevent and better treat chronic diseases

Participants: anyone who lives in Ontario, from ages 35 to 69

How workplace data may be used: to develop job exposure matrices • assess occupational exposures • conduct biomarker studies of exposure and/or effect • collect biospecimens from high risk groups, as well as additional occupational and environmental data

Partners: the study is a partnership project led by four government-funded organizations: Cancer Care Ontario • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer • Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

How to get involved: volunteer as a study participant. Visit the Ontario Health Study website ( for more information. Researchers welcome individual and organization-wide participation.

“Our goal,” explains John McLaughlin, the project's interim director and lead cancer scientist, “is to continue involving participants over a long period of time so that we can measure what happens in everyday life, at work, from the environment, or in their genes, to better understand what combination of factors may give rise to cancer, heart disease and other important chronic diseases.” McLaughlin is also vice-president of population studies and surveillance at Cancer Care Ontario (CCO), a provincial agency responsible for improving cancer services, and the government's cancer advisor. CCO is one of four organizations leading the project (see “Ontario Health Study Overview” for study particulars).

“We are very motivated by the need to improve what we can do in disease prevention,” says McLaughlin. “We will be using questionnaires to collect information from volunteers at the beginning, and then over time, as we are able to, we are interested in learning more detailed information, such as workplace exposures.”

The work-related information would be used to create job exposure matrices, says McLaughlin. “We would ask people to tell us about their occupational history, where they worked, what their jobs were, how long they did that, and then from a detailed occupational history one can begin to estimate what workplaces exposures might have been.” Researchers will be able to compare this information to existing research linking workplace data to information about known carcinogens.

Cancer and the workplace

Past estimates derived from US data suggest that about 4% of cancer deaths are caused by occupational exposures. However, scientists now believe the percentage may be greater.

Deriving an estimate for Ontario is one of the goals of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC), a partner in the Ontario Health Study. “The centre has recently appointed a senior scientific director, Dr. Paul Demers, who will take up full-time position in September,” says McLaughlin. “Estimating the frequency and burden of occupational cancer in Ontario is one of the projects that he and the group have identified as a priority. This will be very useful for policy making, directing research, and compensation.”

The newly-established OCRC ( represents a partnership among research, health care, workplace safety, labour and industry groups.  It is jointly funded by Cancer Care Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division, and was developed in collaboration with the United Steelworkers Union.

Dr. Shelley Harris, a Cancer Care Ontario toxicologist and project team member, has identified a number of workplace substances of interest:

  • air pollutants (NOx, ozone, particulates, etc.)
  • brominated flame retardants (PBDEs)
  • electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
  • metals (As, Ni, Pb, Hg)
  • nanomaterials
  • organic and local food consumption
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • perchlorate
  • perfluorochemicals
  • pesticides (select)
  • pharmaceutical estrogens
  • phenols (nonylphenol, bisphenol-A)
  • phthalates
  • radon
  • shift work
  • water chlorination
  • byproducts
    • WiFi (wireless technologies)
    • personal care products

Reporting may begin this year

“At this stage, we have a very large and comprehensive data set that represents people from three regions of Ontario,” says McLaughlin. Those data are now being analyzed, so in the short term we can begin to explore preliminary patterns of exposure, patterns of health concerns, and how they differ between the regions of Ontario. We will be able to report on that this year.”

The project's middle and long-term set of goals, identifying contributing factors for cancer and other chronic diseases, will be achieved as the study tracks participants' health. “It will take some time for those health outcomes to occur,” says McLaughlin.

In the meantime, employers and workers can take steps to control exposure to hazardous substances. See “Occupational exposure: tips for employers,” below.

A national perspective

In addition to the work underway in Ontario, says McLaughlin, “we are collaborating with four other regions of Canada where similar studies on a smaller scale are being done. Together, we form a national project, the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, and aim to attract 300,000 participants from across the country.”

To volunteer or learn more, visit the Ontario Health Study website ( Researchers welcome individual and organization-wide participation.

Occupational exposure: tips for employers

  • Inform your employees about potential workplace hazards.
  • Try to eliminate the agent or agents causing occupational asthma.
  • Substitute with a less hazardous agent.
  • Control exposures by closing off work processes that release causative agents into the air.
  • Install ventilation systems to capture and contain emissions at the source.
  • Train your employees in safe working and housekeeping practices.
  • Institute and follow a rigorous equipment maintenance schedule.
  • Provide PPE where necessary and train employees in its correct use.
  • If a respirator is provided, ensure it is of a suitable type, properly maintained, tested to fit the individual wearer, and that the employee is trained in its correct use.
  • Monitor the level of all hazardous agents.
  • Consult an occupational hygienist on how to recognise, evaluate and control workplace hazards and their health effects.
  • If an employee does develop OA, try to provide him or her alternative employment that keeps him or her safe from the causative agent.

Occupational exposure: tips for workers

  • Read and understand the material safety data sheets relevant to your employment.
  • Learn about the hazards in your workplace.
  • Follow safe work practices.
  • Use your PPE if provided.
  • Report any problems with equipment or ventilation systems.
  • Participate in all health and safety programs in your workplace.
  • Learn to recognise the early signs of occupational asthma.
  • If you become concerned, see your doctor immediately.
  • Accurately describe your symptoms, tell him or her where you work, and what substances you are exposed to.
  • If necessary, see an occupational health professional.
  • Make sure you inform your union health and safety representative, if applicable.
  • Learn your rights as an employee and, if all else fails, refuse work that puts your health at risk.

How we can help

Our technical consultants can help you anticipate, recognize, assess and control chemical, physical or biological agents before they adversely affect employees' health and safety. Among the services available:

  • confined space evaluations
  • air quality sampling (indoor air quality)
  • designated substance assessments (e.g., lead, silica and isocyanates)
  • chemical substance assessments (e.g., solvents, welding fumes, metalworking fluid and metal/wood dust)
  • noise level surveys (including basic noise mapping and dose level monitoring)
  • heat exposure measurements

We also offer a number of free downloads regarding occupational and infectious diseases:

  • Hearing Conservation (guideline)
  • Occupational Dermatitis
  • Work-Related Asthma Recognition and Prevention: Metals and Metal Working Fluids
  • Baker's Asthma
  • Occupational Asthma: Automotive Parts Manufacturing and Foam and Expanded Plastic Industries
  • Work-Related Asthma and You: Prevention in Higher Risk Industries
  • Business Pandemic Preparedness - Sample Checklist
  • Colds and the Flu
  • Influenzas and the Pandemic Threat
  • Legionnaires' Disease - Frequently Asked Questions
  • West Nile Virus

In the News

10 OHS goals for US manufacturing

Drawing on existing data and input from subject experts and stakeholders, The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has devised 10 strategic goals to improve manufacturing health and safety.

In 2007, over 16 million workers were employed in 21 manufacturing sub-sectors ranging from food, beverages, tobacco, and textiles to petroleum, chemical, metals, machinery, computers, transportation equipment, and furniture manufacturing. Among these workers, the leading causes of days away from work were

  • contact with objects or equipment (70,210)
  • overexertion and repetitive motion (52,120)
  • falls (26,160)

One of the 10 goals involves reducing the incidence and prevalence of cancer due to workplace exposures. NIOSH notes that, in 2007, manufacturing reported the highest rates of occupational illness of any industry sector. However, says NIOSH, “the extent of exposure and disease in manufacturing is a major gap in our knowledge due in large part to the often long latent period between exposure and the onset of disease.” The result: “occupational diseases are often missed by traditional occupational health surveillance systems.”

This goal is also a priority for a massive new health study in Ontario (see “Online health survey: workplaces included”).

NIOSH's 10 OHS goals

  1. Reduce the number of injuries and fatalities due to contact with objects and equipment.
  2. Reduce the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from falls among workers.
  3. Reduce the number and severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
  4. Reduce the incidence of occupationally induced hearing loss.
  5. Reduce the number of respiratory conditions and diseases due to exposures.
  6. Reduce the incidence and prevalence of cancer due to exposures.
  7. Reduce the incidence of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among understudied and vulnerable populations in the manufacturing sector, such as contract workers, younger and older workers, immigrants, and pregnant and nursing workers.
  8. Reduce the incidence of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities within small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) and specific sub-sectors.
  9. Enhance the state of knowledge related to emerging risks to OHS.
  10. Reduce the number of catastrophic incidents (e.g., explosions, chemical incidents, or building structural failures).

The goals are NOT listed in order of priority. Numbering is for NIOSH purposes only. Each of these goals is accompanied by a subset of goals. To learn more, download National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) National Manufacturing Agenda


Certain injury frequency statistics appearing in the June issue of Accident Prevention e-News were incorrect. A corrected table appears below.

WSPS Firms' Injury Frequency, 2009/2008 (% Improvement)*
Organization Lost-Time Injury (LTI) Frequency No Lost Time Injury (NLTI) Frequency Total Injury Frequency
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) ** 1.10/1.33 (17%) 2.64/3.23 (18%) 3.73/4.56 (18%)
Farm Safety Association (FSA) 2.37/2.45
Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) 1.05/1.35
Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA) 1.09/1.27 (14%) 2.09/2.51
All Ontario organizations 1.27/1.51