MOL Work shouldn't hurtWhat is a Musculoskeletal Disorder?

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. They may be caused or aggravated by various hazards or risk factors in the workplace such as high force, awkward/static postures, and repetitive motions. The musculoskeletal system includes: muscles, tendons and tendon sheathes, nerves, bursa, blood vessels, joints/spinal discs, and ligaments.

MSDs do not include musculoskeletal injuries or disorders that are the direct result of a fall, struck by or against, caught in or on, vehicle collision, violence, etc.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker and has proven important in preventing the types of musculoskeletal injuries that contribute to increasing workplace related disability claims.

Once a person is injured, all their daily activities may be disrupted. Ergonomic implementation works to prevent injuries rather than treat them. A complete ergonomics program includes education about risk factors, causes of injuries, and encourages good habits in posture, body mechanics and exercise at work, home and leisure.

Ergonomics Diagram

Creating a Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention Program

Imbedded throughout the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety of Act (OHSA) is the concept of the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) which encourages the participation of all workplace parties in occupational health and safety. This notion of participation is reinforced through the legislated duties outlined for all workplace parties in the OHSA, meaning health and safety is a shared responsibility. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) are the most common injuries experienced by Ontario workers

A commitment to MSD prevention is essential to the sustainability of any health and safety initiative related to reducing these injuries. Senior leadership must make MSD prevention an organizational priority and corporate goal. This commitment and support ensures that the resources are available to develop, implement and maintain the program. An MSD prevention program is an important component of an overall health and safety program.

In terms of MSD prevention, the objective of an MSD prevention program is to establish measures and procedures that avoid overloading or damaging the musculoskeletal system, which is achieved through the use of Ergonomics. Ergonomics, considered the solution to MSD prevention, examines the interaction between a worker and the elements of their work environment in an attempt to fit a job or work activity to a worker or population of workers. Used in combination with MSD prevention initiatives, Ergonomics can assist the workplace to recognize, assess, and control MSD hazards and related concerns in the workplace.

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  • eOfficeErgo: Ergonomics e-Learning for Office Workers
    This online training program was developed by IWH in partnership with the U.S.-based Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. An international scientific panel of academic and practicing ergonomists reviewed the content to ensure it complied with current scientific findings and international standards, including the Canadian Standards Association’s CSA-Z412-00 (R2011): Guideline on Office Ergonomics.



Ergonomics Assessments

Overexertion and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) involve strains and sprains of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints or nerves. Sprains and strains account for 50% of all lost-time injuries in Ontario. An ergonomic approach reduces the risk of these injuries by matching the demands of the job to the abilities of the employee through proper design of workstations, tools, environment, work schedules, policies and procedures. Employers are legally required to take every possible precaution to protect workers from hazards including MSD injuries. The MSD prevention guideline, announced in February 2007 outlines employers’ obligations. As well the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations relate to MSD prevention and ergonomics.

In an effort to help you reduce MSD-type injuries, PSHSA offers a variety of ergonomic services, including:

  • Ergonomic Assessments – To identify ergonomics risk factors, determine the level of risk present in a job and provide suggestions to minimize the risk of injury
  • Physical Demands Analysis (PDA’s) – An in-depth description of the physical demands and environmental conditions associated with job performance

To request a specialized Ergonomic assessment or to ask your ergonomic questions use our live chat or contact a PSHSA consultant in your region.

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Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)


  • A Participatory Approach to MSD Prevention
    Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) are a common cause of injuries in Ontario workplaces. With knowledge and a participatory approach, your organization can make changes to the work environment and prevent these injuries from occurring.


  • How Does My Back Work
    This Fast Fact describes how the back works, outlines rules for safe lifting and considerations for pregnant workers.



CRE MSD/PSHSA Client Handling Community of Practice Webinar Links

  • March 2016 Webinar – 1st Community of Practice Presentation – Introduction by Dr. Catherine Brookman CRE MSD and Henrietta van Hulle PSHSA Executive Director for Health and Community Team – includes participants’ feedback on the polling questions asked during the meeting, which will help to inform future CoP activities and content. Watch a recording of this webinar.
  • May 2016 Webinar – 2nd Community of Practice Presentation featuring Dr. Peter Keir McMaster University who presented on CONTINUOUS TRUNK POSTURE MEASUREMENT AND ANALYSIS IN LONG TERM CARE NURSING. Watch the recording of this webinar.
  • October 2016 Webinar – 3rd Community of Practice Presentation featuring Dr. Laura Punnet University of Massachusetts Lowell – HIGHLIGHTS OF CURRENT RESEARCH and US POLICY. Watch the recording of this webinar.
  • December 2016 Webinar – 4th Community of Practice Presentation featuring Frances Ziesmann MHM from PSHSA – CLIENT HANDLING PROGRAG DEVELOPMENT AND TIPS FOR SUCCESS. Watch a recording of this webinar.
  • March 31 2017 Webinar – 5th Community of Practice Presentation featuring Claudette Walsh from CBI Workplace Solutions – Safe client handling: CBI Workplace Solutions demystifies misconceptions and shares solutions. Watch a recording of this webinar.
  • April 11 2017 Webinar – 6th Community of Practice Presentation featuring Community of Practice Presentation featuring Dr. Catherine Brookman, Dr. Sheila Ritcey, and Emily King – Mitigating MSD in personal support workers and improving client mobility. Watch a recording of this webinar.


Additional Resources

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