Ontario: Awareness Campaign Focuses on Ergonomic-Related Injuries

The Ontario Ministry of Labor is trying to heighten awareness of ergonomic-related workplace injuries through an inspection and education campaign.

As part of the government's plan to reduce workplace injuries by 20 percent by 2008, the Ministry of Labor created the "Pains and Strains Campaign," which focuses on musculoskeletal disorders a significant but often overlooked workplace hazard, according to Minister of Labor Steve Peters.

"Injuries like back pains and joint strains are a major concern in Ontario workplaces," Peters said while speaking at the University of Waterloo's Center of Research. "They account for 42 percent of all lost-time injuries."

Through the campaign, the government will work toward applying six recommendations made by the Minister of Labor's Ergonomics Advisory Panel that deal with areas such as awareness, education and prevention, as well as improved training, availability of more resources materials, increased expertise and better tracking of ergonomic-related inspections. Recommendations include:

  • Establishing a common definition of musculoskeletal injuries to help track and analyze trends;
  • Integrating ergonomics into training for professionals such as engineers, health care practitioners and skilled tradespersons; and
  • Creating an inventory of existing ergonomics standards to help workplace parties reduce musculoskeletal injuries.

Ergonomic-related injuries not only hinder a worker's ability to perform their daily job functions but also make a major dent in their employer's bottom line, according the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). The Ministry of Labor estimates that between 1996 and 2004, the direct and indirect cost of ergonomic-related injuries was approximately $12 billion.

"By targeting workplace pains and strains, we are protecting Ontario's workers and strengthening our economy," Peters said.

Beginning April 1, ministry inspectors will focus on risk factors during inspections of high-risk workplaces in industrial and health sectors to raise awareness of pains and strains.

An information sheet, developed by the ministry and WSIB, outlines ways to identify and prevent ergonomic-related injuries. It can be accessed at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/ergonomics/is_ergonomics.html.

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