About Musculoskeletal Injuries
Musculoskeletal Injuries (MSIs), also known as Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), are injuries that affect muscles, tendons and ligaments, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue. These injuries can occur from overexertion, such as when lifting a heavy box, or from repeatedly using the same muscles over and over again as is the case with Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). Examples of MSIs include Rotator Cuff tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and low back injuries involving ligaments, muscles or spinal discs.
MSIs make up approximately 30% of WorkSafe BC injury claims at UBC.
The Occupational Health & Safety Regulations require employers to identify and assess workplace risk factors in order to eliminate or if that is not practical, minimize, the risk of MSI to workers.
WorkSafe BC’s Seven-Step MSI Prevention Process
- Step 1: Consultation
- Step 2: Education
- Step 3: Risk Identification
- Step 4: Risk Assessment
- Step 5: Risk Control
- Step 6: Training
- Step 7: Evaluation
Step 1: Consultation
Sections 4.53(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires that employers Consult with the joint committee, or the worker health and safety representative, workers reporting MSI signs & symptoms when implementing the MSI requirements. Not only are workers often the best source of information about their job tasks will facilitate a participatory approach which often means more effective solutions.
Step 2: Education
Section 4.51(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires that employers Educate workers about (a) the MSI risks in their work and how to change their work/habits to avoid injury, and (b) early signs and symptoms of MSIs and their potential health effects and the importance of early reporting.
Examples of MSI Signs & Symptoms
- Reduced Range of Motion
- Pain &/or localized discomfort
- Tender to Touch
Step 3: Risk Identification
WorkSafe BC requires that employers Identify factors in the workplace that may expose workers to a risk of MSI.
It may be useful to first prioritize high risk jobs/tasks by reviewing employee symptom reports, accident/incident investigations, First Aid Reports, and, injury statistics.
WorkSafe BC Worksheet ‘A’, MSI Risk Factor Identification is one tool you may use to help identify risk factors in prioritized job tasks.
Primary Risk Factors
- Contact Stress
Other Risk Factors
- Physical Environment
Section 4.49 of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation requires employers to consider the following factors when identifying and assessing the risk of MSI:
(a) Physical demands of work activities, including
(i) force required,
(iv) work postures, and
(v) local contact stresses;
(b) Aspects of the layout and condition of the workplace or workstation, including
(i) working reaches,
(ii) working heights,
(iii) seating, and
(iv) floor surfaces;
(c) Characteristics of objects handled, including
(i) size and shape,
(ii) load condition and weight distribution, and
(iii) container, tool and equipment handles;
(d) Environmental conditions, including cold temperature;
(e) The following characteristics of the organization of work:
(i) work-recovery cycles;
(ii) task variability;
(iii) work rate.
For more information about risk factors please refer to the WSBC Guide Understanding the Risk of MSI.
*WorkSafe BC does not require that employers identify/assess psychosocial risk factors; however research does suggest that psychosocial risk factors can impact the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Therefore, although not required, it is an important factor to consider. More information on Psychosocial Risk Factors is available from the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
Step 4: Risk Assessment
Section 4.48 of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation requires that when MSI risk factors have been identified, the employer must ensure that the risk to workers is assessed. A risk assessment evaluates the extent of exposure to assess how great the risk is. This includes determining:
- Magnitude (how much)
- Duration (how long)
- Frequency (how often, how fast)
Below is a list of pen and paper tools that can help employers assess the risk of MSI in their workplace:
- WSBC Worksheet ‘B’, MSI Risk Factor Assessment
- WSBC Lift/Lower Calculator
- NIOSH Lifting Calculator
- WorkSafe BC Push/Pull Calculator
- Manual Handling Assessment Chart (UK, Health & Safety Executive)
- Hand-Arm Vibration Calculator (UK, Health & Safety Executive)
- Quick Exposure Checklist (UK, Health & Safety Executive
- Assessment of Repetitive Tasks (ART) of the Upper Limbs, UK, Health & Safety Executive
Step 5: Risk Control
Section 4.50 of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation states that employers must (1) eliminate or, if that is not practicable, minimize the risk of MSI to workers; (2) personal protective equipment may only be used as a substitute for engineering/administrative controls when those are not practicable (i.e. reasonably capable of being done), and (3) the employer must, without delay, implement interim control measures when the introduction of permanent control measures will be delayed.
The 3 levels of controls are (i) engineering; (ii) administrative; and (iii) personal protective equipment.
Engineering controls involve physical changes to the work environment, such as implementing a mechanical lifting aid or changing the working heights, are often the most effective.
Administrative controls involve changes to the work process/organization, such as implementing rest breaks or job rotation.
For common risk control options, please refer to WSBC Guide Preventing MSIs
Step 6: Training
Section 4.51(2) of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation requires employers to train workers to use MSI control measures that are implemented, including, where applicable, work procedures, mechanical aids, and personal protective equipment.
Step 7: Evaluation
Section 4.52 of the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation requires that employers monitor the effectiveness of the measures taken to comply with the Ergonomics (MSI) Requirements and to ensure they are reviewed at least annually. Further, when the above monitoring identifies deficiencies, they must be corrected without undue delay.