A musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) prevention program is a key component to any successful and healthy workplace setting. But what actually is an MSD prevention program? According to the Ontario Ministry of labour, an MSD can be defined as an injury of the musculoskeletal system typically involving high forces, poor postures, and repetition in tasks.1 To combat these injuries, most organizational MSD prevention programs consist of guidelines and principles designed to reduce certain workplace injury risks and prevent various common workplace injuries such as strains or sprains. These general principles typically target dangerous movements and can be applied uniquely and specifically to individual workplaces and even to individual workstations to ensure that every employee can work safely and with as little risk as possible. The transferability of these interventions is often their main strength, as programs can be created for all types of workplaces (offices, factory jobs, driving jobs, etc.) using the same key principles for guidance. These principles can be demonstrated clearly in posters similar to the following example, which highlights the importance of storing objects in a safe manner:
These programs play a huge role in keeping workers safe, and directly impact some of the most common causes of injury and lost productivity. In 2020, 33% of all valid WSIB claims were reported to be sprains or strains, which are examples of only a few injuries that MSD prevention programs can protect against.3 Other common injuries included fractures, bruises, and traumatic injuries, which also can potentially be prevented by MSD programs.
In addition to keeping workers safe, many of these programs have the potential to pay for themselves! Hélène Sultan-Taïeb et al. (2017) recently conducted a review on the economic benefits of various MSD prevention programs and found that they actually increased the income of companies when workers and supervisors were engaged and followed the suggested recommendations.4
In summary, MSD injuries are some of the most common injuries in Ontario and lead to significant lost time and productivity. MSD Prevention Plans are efficient ways to reduce these injuries and keep a workforce healthy through a set of guiding principles that reduce workplace risks. These programs often pay for themselves when workers and organizations commit to the program and everyone takes responsibility to follow the recommendations of the program.
1Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) at Industrial Workplaces. (2012, January). Ministry of Labour. https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/sawo/pubs/fs_msd_industrial.php
2Quick Start Guideline: General. (2021). MSD Prevention. https://www.msdprevention.com/Quick-Start-Guide.htm
3By the numbers: Open data downloads. (2021). WSIB. https://www.wsib.ca/en/numbers-open-data-downloads
4Sultan-Taïeb, H., Parent-Lamarche, A., Gaillard, A., Stock, S., Nicolakakis, N., Hong, Q. N., Vezina, M., Coulibaly, Y., Vézina, N., & Berthelette, D. (2017). Economic evaluations of ergonomic interventions preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of organizational-level interventions. BMC Public Health, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4935-y