Ontario Ministry of Labour Announces Inspection Blitz on Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
On October 1, 2019 the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced it will begin an inspection blitz aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This inspection blitz will target workplaces across Ontario, specifically those in construction, health care, industrial and mining sectors. The start of the blitz happens to coincide with October’s Global Ergonomics Month, and inspections are scheduled to run from October 1 to December 27, 2019.
What is an Inspection “Blitz”?
An inspection “blitz” is a targeted inspection and enforcement initiative developed and implemented by Canadian provincial and territorial MOLs that focuses on specific industry sectors with high injury rates or a history of non-compliance, or on specific workplace hazards.
Provincial and territorial MOLs base their inspection blitz programs on analyses of occupational health and safety (OHS) trends such as numbers of fatalities, critical injuries, lost-time injuries (LTIs), LTI rates and the costs associated with Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims. These statistics are evaluated across each sector, and are used to identify sectors that should be targeted for blitz initiatives. Other factors that influence inspection blitz priorities include the compliance history of individual sectors, and known hazards inherent to the type of work performed in those sectors.
Why Target MSDs?
MSDs are potentially debilitating injuries that affect muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilages, and spinal discs. MSDs are frequently caused by exposure to high forces, awkward postures and repetitive motions when workers are required to lift, carry, push, pull or otherwise move materials, people and objects. Common MSDs include sprains, strains, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), hernias, and a variety of connective tissue injuries.
According to Ontario’s WSIB, MSDs are among the leading causes of lost workdays, resulting in 19,000 claims and 462,000 days lost from work. This represents more than one-third of all lost-time injury claims recorded in 2017. In addition, the WSIB estimates that work-related MSDs costs Ontario’s economy approximately $72 million annually.
What Hazards & Workplace Conditions Will Inspectors Look For?
During the inspection blitz, MOL inspectors will focus on the hazards encountered during manual material and patient handling activities that most commonly lead to MSDs. According to Ontario’s MOL, inspectors will specifically verify that:
- Employers have provided training to workers on safe manual materials handling practices
- Items are being manually handled in a safe manner
- Items are stored so that they can be placed or withdrawn in a safe manner
- Handling items while the worker is on a ladder is being performed in a safe manner
- Obstructions and/or hazards on the floor are not interfering with manual materials handling activities
Other items the inspector is likely to focus on include:
- Written health and safety programs and policies related to MSD hazards
- Workplace-specific MSD hazards
- Internal Responsibility System (IRS) training requirements and any IRS deficiencies
- Records of injuries, specifically those relating to MSDs
- Overall compliance with Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations
This last point is important to remember because during the inspection blitz, MOL inspectors are not going to limit their observations to MSD hazards. Inspections will cover the full scope of workplace compliance with all applicable OHS requirements, including any other concurrent inspection blitz programs.
Tips on how to prepare for an MOL blitz inspection
If you are an employer in Ontario, especially those in construction, health care, industrial or mining sectors, the likelihood of being visited by an MOL inspector has increased significantly. So, before an inspector visits your workplace, Ontario’s MOL recommends that you:
- Review your injury and illness records for MSDs and other ergonomics-related incidents
- Review the OSHA and other regulations that may apply to the prevention of MSD and material/patient handling hazards
- Determine whether you are currently meeting or exceeding the minimum compliance requirements for any blitz-related regulations
- Consult with Ontario’s MOL Health and Safety Partners and other compliance assistance resources for specific information and services that may help you prepare
- Review the MOL’s MSD blitz-related material
- Discuss and implement compliance strategies with your Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) or Health and Safety Representative (HSR)
- Ensure all required documentation is available to the MOL inspector upon request
- Ensure supervisors and worker health and safety representatives are available during the inspection
- Ensure the workplace parties co-operate with the MOL inspector and do not interfere with the inspection
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