Musculoskeletal disorders focus of latest inspection blitz

Musculoskeletal disorders focus of latest inspection blitz
The Ontario Ministry of Labour will focus its safety inspections on risks involving musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), in a two-month enforcement blitz starting this month.

In a statement, the ministry said beginning September 15, it will target workplaces in the construction, health care, industrial and mining sectors.

Health and safety inspectors will check for hazards that can lead to MSDs, such as tasks that put workers in awkward postures, that are repetitive and that require workers to exert force when lifting, pushing or carrying items. They will also check whether employers have training and procedures in place for those types of tasks.

“Musculoskeletal disorders continue to be the number one cause of injuries in which workers in Ontario need to take time off work,” said Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour, in a statement. “The Ontario government and its health and safety partners are committed to eliminating all workplace injuries, including those involving MSDs.”?

MSDs are injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons and nerves that can develop as a result of continued exposure to repetitive work, awkward postures and other factors. They are the most common workplace lost-time injury in Ontario. In 2008, 43 per cent of all lost-time injuries involved MSDs, representing more than 33,000 injured workers.

An enforcement blitz involving MSD hazards in April 2009 resulted in 4,541 orders issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the ministry said. Of those, 601 orders were related to MSD issues.

MSD prevention checklist

•    Advise and train workers about the MSD risk factors in their job and in the workplace

•    Encourage workers to participate in the health and safety program through early reporting of MSD symptoms or concerns

•    Identify and assess job-related MSD risk factors

•    Put in place controls to reduce workers’ exposure to MSD risk factors

•    Follow-up to make sure preventive measures are working.
Following is a list of sectors and hazards that ministry inspectors will focus on during the two-month MSD inspection blitz.

Inspectors will check for actions to ensure that:
•    products being handled (lifted, carried, moved) while workers are on ladders do not pose MSD - or fall-related hazards to workers
•    large products being team-lifted (by more than one worker) are being handled safely and workers are trained
•    aisle obstructions do not result in unnecessary manual handling of products or movement of work carts
•    cashiers are trained to recognize and deal with MSD signs, symptoms, hazards and controls.

Inspectors will check for actions to ensure that:
•    equipments, such as masonry mixers and wheelbarrows, are being well-maintained
•    access into excavated sites is suitable for carrying heavy materials such as forms used in low-rise forming
•    materials are being carried on ground-level paths that are free of obstacles
•    materials such as roofing supplies are being moved in a safe manner
•    workers are not using boxes as platforms when they are carrying out tasks above shoulder level such as laying bricks over a door-frame.

Inspectors will check for actions to ensure that:
•    patient handling equipment is being used to lift, transfer and reposition patients
•    workers are trained in the safe use of patient handling equipment, and policies and procedures are established and in writing
•    laboratory workstations are set up to prevent awkward postures
•    carts used in housekeeping, maintenance, dietary, nursing and laundry, etc. are properly maintained, appropriate work practices are written and floor surfaces are maintained in good condition.

In addition, inspectors will discuss the engagement of the joint health and safety committee on:
•    inspecting for MSD hazards during monthly inspections
•    consultation on developing MSD prevention measures, procedures and training
•    receiving notice of workplace MSD lost-time injuries.

Inspectors will check for actions to ensure that:
•    workers climbing in and out of vehicle cabs have firm footing at appropriate heights, with accompanying handrails
•    appropriate clearances, such as head and leg space and good seat support exist inside vehicle cabs
•    roads, vehicle seats and shocks are well-maintained to prevent jarring of workers while driving vehicles, and
•    operator workstations are laid out with unrestricted views, well-maintained seats and no sharp edges digging into the worker’s body.