Ontario Construction News staff writer
Ministry of Labour inspectors will blitz workplaces in order to prevent musculoskeletal injuries – Ontario’s top workplace injury, Monte McNaughton, minister of labour has announced.
Musculoskeletal injuries result from repetitive work, heavy lifting and carrying and awkward postures that affect people’s bones, joints, ligaments and other soft tissues. That could include such tasks as lifting heavy bags of cement, repositioning patients in a hospital or long-term care home, or handling objects while on a ladder.
Back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis are three prominent examples of musculoskeletal injuries.
“My top priority is workplace safety,” Minister McNaughton said. “We all need to be careful about the way we’re working. Lifting, carrying and even sitting the wrong way can lead to injuries.”
In 2017, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for about one-third of all lost-time injury claims accepted by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. They resulted in 19,000 claims, 462,000 days lost from work and $72 million in costs.
The blitz will focus on workplaces in the construction, health care, industrial and mining sectors. It coincides with Global Ergonomics Month in October.
The workplace inspections will run from Oct. 1 to Dec. 27, 2019. In an effort to raise awareness, Ministry staff have been conducting outreach to employers over the past number of weeks.
Inspections will also be focused on breathing hazards, which include gases, dusts, vapours and fumes that can lead to lung cancer and other illnesses.
- For musculoskeletal hazards, depending on the sector, inspectors may check that materials and people are being lifted and moved safely; items are stored so they can be safely accessed; and precautions are being taken if workers are exposed to prolonged vibration, specifically to the hands and arms and work is performed safely on ladders.
- For respiratory hazards, generally inspectors will check that workers are provided with information, instruction and supervision; workers are acquainted with respiratory hazards in the workplace, work areas have proper ventilation, workers who are required to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are trained on its correct use and the PPE is accessible when required, PPE is properly maintained and is in good condition; and proper controls and work practices are in place to prevent respiratory hazards and worker exposure to hazardous agents are within legal limits.
“Everyone has a role and responsibility in preventing musculoskeletal injuries and respiratory hazards,” said Minister McNaughton. “This enforcement initiative will help prevent needless suffering for thousands of workers and ensure they are safe on the job.”
The blitz is part of the government’s Safe at Work Ontario strategy. The goal is to improve worker health and safety by helping employers comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.
Public consultations on the Safe At Work Ontario program and initiatives are held annually.