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.

Ergonomics DiagramWhat 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.


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.

New Ontario MSD Prevention Guideline

The Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) has led a collaborative process to develop a new Ontario MSD Prevention Guideline, updating the older 2007 version and targeting the Ministry of Labour priorities in the Strategic Framework such as Small Businesses.

Pains and strains, repetitive strain injuries (RSI), low back pain, shoulder pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome, collectively known as Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSD, represent one of the leading causes of disability and pain in workers and the largest source of employers’ compensation claims.  This new Guideline will assist organizations in the prevention of MSD through the use of its content and resources.

The new Guideline has been designed for all companies and workers to address the prevention of MSD, and is composed of three interlinked sources: a Quick Start Guideline for small and micro businesses; a Basic Guideline for medium-sized organizations; and a Comprehensive Guideline for large organizations. No matter the size or resources of ones’ organization, all the Guideline sources have useful features.

The Quick Start Guideline was tested in hundreds of very small businesses and has identified six key workplace factors that may increase the risk of developing MSD. The website content includes an introductory video, newly developed hazard identification and control approaches, graphics, and downloadable templates and documents.

View the Guideline:

Healthy Worker

When most people hear the word ergonomics, they often think of office environment and equipment, but ergonomics is much more than chairs, computers and keyboards with wrist pads. Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker, and carries an important role in worker safety and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) prevention. Visit our free Healthy Worker website to understand more about how the pattern of physical and mental strain can take a toll on our well-being, our ability to care for others and sometimes, our health and safety at work.



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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.

In-Class Training


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.

MoL Municipal Ergo Initiative Resources

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Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

In-Class Training

  • 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.

Fast Facts



CRE MSD/PSHSA Client Handling Community of Practice Webinar Links

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Bariatric Client Handling
Resource videos created by Alberta Health Services and Canadian Obesity Network on how to safely handle for bariatric clients in different situations.

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