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MSD hazards are a risk like any other

Assess the hazards of MSDs at your workplace

Identifying and controlling hazards in the workplace aren't new concepts. Hazards related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) however, weren't considered a priority in the past. By treating MSD hazards as you would a chemical or biological hazard, risk can be identified and controlled – and that means reducing injuries.

IHSA statistics show that MSD-related injuries should be taken seriously. In 2008, the percentage of MSD-related lost-time injuries reported by IHSA member firms ranged from more than 28 per cent to more than 53 per cent of all lost-time injuries that year. To learn more about the specific rate groups, consult the table below.

 

What is risk management?

All tasks involve some level of risk, even when controlled, so it is up to the organization to determine what level of risk is tolerable. Risk management is a four-step process which involves the identification of hazards, quantification of risk, implementation of controls, and re-evaluation. These principles can be applied to MSD-related risks just as any other risk.

1. Hazard identification is the first step in this process. The process of hazard identification can be handled in a variety of ways: hazards can be identified by category across the organization as a whole, or by dividing the workplace by task, location, or role. The method used depends on a variety of factors including the size and distribution of the organization. This information is the foundation of your hazard registry, a list of all hazards at your workplace. When compiling your hazard registry useful information can be obtained from:

  • incident or injury reports
  • workplace inspection records
  • audit results
  • joint health and safety committee minutes
  • employee feedback or surveys
 

2. Conduct a risk assessment to determine what tasks carry the most risk. The risk assessment is connected to the health and safety system and its results can be used in setting health and safety objectives and updating your health and safety policy.

3. Risk that falls into an unacceptable category (i.e. high severity and high probability) must be managed to reduce the level of risk. There are four main methods of control.

  • a. Elimination or substitution – the process of removing the hazard from the workplace or substituting it with something that is considered to be less hazardous.
  • b. Engineering controls – designs or modifications to the workplace, equipment, and processes.
  • c. Administrative controls – alter the way work is performed. This includes policies and other rules and work practices such as standards and operating procedures.
  • d. Personal protective equipment (PPE) – used by individuals to reduce exposure (e.g. knee pads for workers who kneel or anti-vibration gloves for workers who use hand tools).

The methods are ranked in order of implementation. Always attempt to eliminate or substitute a hazard first if possible. Second in order of importance are engineering controls, followed by administrative controls. As a last method of control, personal protective equipment can be incorporated to reduce the level of risk posed by a specific hazard.

4. Re-evaluation is important to ensure that the level of risk has been reduced to a tolerable level. In addition to re-quantifying the risk, it is important to assess and monitor the effectiveness of the controls which have been implemented. It is also important to re-evaluate your risk assessment to incorporate new processes, new equipment, findings from hazard and incident reports, etc.

 

Share your results

Your risk management program is only valuable if you explain it to staff and ensure everyone understands it. If everyone knows what's involved in risk assessment and the appropriate use of controls, that knowledge can lead to injury prevention.

There is risk associated with every activity and task. Every employee, from the worker on the frontline to the executive in the head office, ought to know about the MSD hazards associated with their position. As risk management is a continuous process, so too is the communication around risk management. As risk levels change and your risk assessment is updated, make sure to share new information with staff.

Here's how to learn more about MSDs and what you can do to prevent them:

 

Percentage of total lost-time injuries

 
IHSA Rate Groups
  • 764 – Homebuilding
  • 728 – Roofing
  • 584 – School buses
  • 711 – Roadbuilding & excavating
  • 689 – Waste materials recycling
  • 751 – Siding and outside finishing
  • 748 – Form work and demolition
  • 737 – Millwrighting and welding
  • 704 – Electrical & incidental construction services
  • 719 – Inside finishing
  • 838 – Natural gas distribution
  • 983 – Communications industries
  • 134 – Sand & gravel pits
  • 732 – Heavy civil construction
  • 830 – Power & telecommunication lines
  • 570 – General trucking
  • 497 – Ready-mix concrete
  • 723 – Industrial, commercial and institutional construction
  • 741 – Masonry
  • 707 – Mechanical and sheet metal work
  • 553 – Air transport services
  • 551 – Air transport industries
  • 681 – Lumber and builders supply
  • 580 – Bus, rail, & water transport industries
  • 835 – Oil, power, & water distribution
  • 577 – Courier services
  • 833 – Electric power generation
  • 560 – Warehousing
2008 MSD Injuries
  • 28.68%
  • 28.75%
  • 30.38%
  • 31.02%
  • 32.87%
  • 33.53%
  • 33.92%
  • 34.01%
  • 34.75%
  • 36.24%
  • 36.67%
  • 36.75%
  • 37.25%
  • 37.93%
  • 38.12%
  • 38.49%
  • 38.96%
  • 39.06%
  • 40.42%
  • 42.57%
  • 44.37%
  • 46.04%
  • 46.35%
  • 47.55%
  • 50.44%
  • 51.45%
  • 52.75%
  • 53.29%
 

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