Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) & Ergonomics

What is a Musculoskeletal Disorder?


Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) 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.


MSD 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.

Creating a Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention Program


The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) 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.

MSD Ergo infographic updated sept 20 2017

1 in every 10 Canadian adults had a repetitive strain injury (RSI) serious enough to limit normal activities.

Approximately 2.3 million Canadians age 20 and up reported having RSI in the previous year.

Thirty percent Lost-Time claims in Ontario were due to Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) in 2016.

MSD have consistently been the leading type of work injury over the past 10 years.

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.


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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





MoL Municipal Ergo Initiative Resources



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)

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


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


  • How Much Can You Lift?
    Describes the many factors that must be considered to avoid injuries due to lifting: worker characteristics, load characteristics, task characteristics and environmental characteristics.





  • Injury Theory and Ergonomics
    Recently at our Emergency Services Summit our guest speaker Dr. Jack P. Callaghan PhD, CCPE shared research for MSD, Injury Theory and Ergonomics. This will be of particular interest to those in the Emergency Services Sector.


  • Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Healthcare Sector
    This conference highlighted the implementation of successful strategies for the reduction of MSD related to patient/client handling/transfers/repositioning, along with the associated training, equipment and policies and procedures. Settings addressed will include community, hospital and long term care.


  • Sit to Stand Job Rotation for Wellness and MSD Prevention
    This conference examined current research that links prolonged sitting and standing with musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and other ill-health outcomes. Case studies and topics covered will include facility design, industry trends, standards and guidelines, implementation processes, interventions and training for the adaptation of sit/stand workstations. Approaches to mitigate negative outcomes and successfully implement sit/stand workstations were also presented.








CRE MSD/PSHSA Client Handling Community of Practice Webinar Links



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.



Handle with Care



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Healthy Workers


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 Healthy Workers section 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.

healthy worker graphic

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