Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI)

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When aspects of work or the workplace challenge or stress the human body beyond its abilities, it can result in injury. These injuries are often referred to as musculoskeletal injuries (MSI). Generally speaking, MSIs involve the muscles, joints, nerves, blood vessels, and supporting tissues.

The primary risk factors for developing an MSI include:

MSIs usually develop over a period of time and can range from short-term discomfort to life-long injury. The key to preventing MSIs from becoming long-lasting is to identify them early, and put control measures in place to stop the injury from getting worse.

Common signs and symptoms of MSI include:

  • Pain;
  • Weakness;
  • Reduced range of motion;
  • Burning sensation;
  • Swelling;
  • Redness;
  • General feeling of fatigue; and
  • Persistent discomfort.

Workplace factors that can lead to MSIs include:

  • Poorly designed work tools and equipment;
  • Poorly designed workplace layout;
  • Poor lighting, including glare and shadows;
  • Overexposure to vibration;
  • Lack of task variety;
  • Lack of lifting equipment;
  • Fast pace of work;
  • Failure to take breaks; and
  • Insufficient time allotted for individuals to adjust to new tasks.

One of the tools a worker or employer can use to reduce the risk of MSIs is an ergonomic assessment. An ergonomic assessment looks for risk factors of MSI and provides information on how to reduce or eliminate the risks, based on the individual’s abilities and needs. These solutions can range from changes in posture to redesign of the work area.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must:

  • Identify MSI risk factors in the workplace in consultation with the Occupational Health and Safety Committee, Worker Health and Safety Representative, or Designate, as applicable.
  • Evaluate the risk to workers by consulting with employees affected by signs or symptoms of MSI and those who do similar work.
  • Minimize the risk by:
    • Providing, positioning and maintaining equipment
    • Putting safe work procedures in place
    • Developing work schedules to introduce rest periods
    • Changing the workload, pace, or tasks
    • Providing appropriate lighting
    • Providing seating and footrests designed to minimize MSIs
    • Providing equipment to help handle heavy or awkward loads
    • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), where other controls are not sufficient to reduce the risk of injury
    • Training employees to identify risk factors and the early signs and symptoms of MSI, as well as, the correct use of control measures
    • Monitoring the effectiveness of control measures.

Worker Responsibilities

Workers must:

  • Take reasonable care to protect his or her health and safety and that of workers and persons at or near the workplace.
  • Properly wear or use personal protective equipment (PPE), safeguards and safety devices provided for their protection in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and training provided by the employer.
  • Follow safe work practices and procedures.
  • Participate in training, hazard assessments, and drills, if provided.
  • Not use equipment or perform work tasks where the required training has not yet taken place.
  • Report hazards to the supervisor.
  • Report early signs and symptoms of MSIs to the supervisor or employer.

Related topics:

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSI)

An injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue, including a sprain, strain and inflammation, that may be caused or aggravated by work.
Some types of MSIs include cumulative trauma disorders (CTD), repetitive motion injuries (RMI), or repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

Repetitive motion

Repeated use of the same body parts without sufficient time to return to a resting state for recovery.

Awkward or sustained posture

This factor is relevant where joints are held at or near the end of range of motion or where muscle tension is required to hold the posture without movement. Awkward postures place significant stress on body tissues and decreases their strength and efficiency.

Forceful exertion

Force refers to the effort a worker must exert to counteract a load. MSIs can be caused by short exposure to high peak force or prolonged exposure to low force.

Occupational Health and Safety Committee

Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.
A committee shall consist of 2 to 12 persons. Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.
At least half of the members are to be persons representing the workers who are not connected with the management. The persons representing the workers are to be elected by other workers or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.
The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co-chairperson from their respective groups.
The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.
A committee:
  • Shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;
  • Shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;
  • May make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;
  • Shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;
  • Shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;
  • Shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers;
  • Shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the act; and
  • Shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.
Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Worker Health and Safety Representative

Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety representative has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety representative shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties.

Workplace Health and Safety Designate

Where less than 6 persons are engaged at a workplace and the designation of a worker health and safety representative is impracticable, the employer may designate a workplace health and safety designate to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.
The workplace health and safety designate shall be appointed by the employer. The workplace health and safety designate may be either a worker connected with the management of the workplace; or the employer, if the designation of a worker connected with the management of the workplace is not practicable.
If the assistant deputy minister or an officer is of the opinion that a workplace health and safety designate cannot adequately monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace, the assistant deputy minister or officer shall order, in writing, that a worker health and safety representative be designated.
The employer shall provide and pay for training for the workplace health and safety designate. The training provided shall meet the requirements that the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission may set. An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training as if the training were regular work.
The workplace health and safety designate shall participate in the training provided.
The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.
A worker health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee where that is reasonably practicable.
A worker health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties. Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties.

Personal protective equipment

Any equipment or device which protects a worker's body from injury, illness or death. PPE acts as a barrier to protect the worker from the hazard.
PPE should only be used:
  • Where other controls are not available or adequate.
  • As a short-term measure before controls are implemented.
  • During activities such as maintenance, clean up, and repair where other controls are not feasible or effective.
  • During emergency situations.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.N.L. 1990, c. O-3

Section 6 Workers' general duty

6. A worker, while at work, shall take reasonable care to protect his or her own health and safety and that of workers and other persons at or near the workplace.

Section 7 Specific duties of workers

7. A worker

(a) shall co-operate with his or her employer and with other workers in the workplace to protect

(i) his or her own health and safety,

(ii) the health and safety of other workers engaged in the work of the employer,

(iii) the health and safety of other workers or persons not engaged in the work of the employer but present at or near the workplace;

(a.1) shall use devices and equipment provided for his or her protection in accordance with the instructions for use and training provided with respect to the devices and equipment;

(b) shall consult and co-operate with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate at the workplace; and

(c) shall co-operate with a person exercising a duty imposed by this Act or regulations.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 3; 2001, c. 10, s. 26; 2004, c. 52, s. 2]

Section 37 Committees

37. Where 10 or more workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall establish an occupational health and safety committee to monitor the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 1999, c. 28, s. 9]

Section 38 Membership of committees

38. (1) A committee shall consist of the number of persons that may be agreed to by the employer and the workers but shall not be less than 2 nor more than 12 persons.

(2) At least half of the members of a committee are to be persons representing the workers at the workplace who are not connected with the management of the workplace.

(3) The persons representing the workers on the committee are to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the union of which the workers are members.

(4) Where the employer and workers cannot agree on the size of the committee, the minister may establish its size.

(5) The employer shall appoint sufficient employer representatives to ensure that the committee may function.

(6) The employer and worker members of a committee shall elect a co- chairperson from their respective groups.

(7) The employer shall post the names of the committee members in a prominent place at the workplace.

Section 39 Duties of committees

39. A committee established under section 37

(a) shall seek to identify aspects of the workplace that may be unhealthy or unsafe;

(a.1) shall participate in a workplace inspection that an employer is required by the regulations to conduct;

(b) may make recommendations to principal contractors, employers, workers, self-employed persons and the assistant deputy minister or an officer for the enforcement of standards to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers at the workplace;

(c) shall receive complaints from workers as to their concerns about the health and safety of the workplace and their welfare;

(d) shall establish and promote health and safety educational programs for workers;

(e) shall maintain records as to the receipt and disposition of complaints received from workers under paragraph (c);

(f) shall co-operate with the assistant deputy minister or an officer who is exercising his or her duties under the Act; and

(g) shall perform those other duties and follow those procedures that may be prescribed by the regulations.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 29]

Section 40 Meetings of committee

40. Meetings of a committee shall take place during regular working hours at least once every 3 months and a worker is not to suffer loss of pay or other benefits while engaged in a meeting of a committee.

Section 41 Worker representative

41. (1) Where less than 10 workers are employed at a workplace, the employer shall ensure that a worker not connected with the management of the workplace is designated as the worker health and safety representative to monitor the health, safety and welfare of workers employed at the workplace.

(2) The employer shall provide and pay for training for the worker health and safety representative.

(3) The training provided under subsection (2) shall meet the requirements the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission may set.

(4) The worker health and safety representative shall participate in the training provided under this section.

(5) An employer shall compensate a worker for participating in training under this section as if the training were regular work.

[S.N.L. 2001, c. 10, s. 30; 2004, c. 47, s. 27]

Section 42 Election of representative

42. The worker health and safety representative is to be elected by other workers at the workplace or appointed in accordance with the constitution of the labour union of which the workers are members.

Section 43 Posting name

43. The employer shall post the name of the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate in a prominent place at the workplace.

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 9]

Section 44 Duties of representative

44. (1) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate has the same duties as those imposed upon a committee under section 39, where that is reasonably practicable.

(2) A worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, where the workplace health and safety designate is not the employer, shall consult with his or her employer while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

(3) Where the workplace health and safety designate is the employer, he or she shall consult with the workers while performing his or her duties under subsection (1).

[S.N.L. 2004, c. 52, s. 10]

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2012
N.L.R. 5/12

Part III GENERAL DUTIES

Section 17 General duties of workers

17. (1) A worker shall make proper use of all necessary safeguards, protective clothing, safety devices, lifting devices or aids, and appliances

(a) designated and provided for his or her protection by the employer; or

(b) required under these regulations to be used or worn by a worker.

(2) A worker shall follow the safe work procedure in which he or she has been instructed.

(3) A worker shall immediately report a hazardous work condition that may come to his or her attention to the employer or supervisor.

Part V GENERAL HEALTH AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS

Section 36 Illumination

36. (1) An employer shall provide sufficient and suitable lighting, whether natural or artificial, in every part of a workplace while a worker is present and the illumination shall comply with the standards set by the American National Standards Institute - Illuminating Engineering Society, or other standards acceptable to the minister.

(2) An artificial light source or reflective surface shall be positioned, screened or provided with a shade to prevent glare or discomfort or the formation of shadows that cause eyestrain or a risk of accident or injury to workers.

(3) Where the visibility in a work area is restricted due to the presence of smoke, steam or other substances in the atmosphere, and where this condition may result in injury to workers, corrective measures shall be taken to eliminate, control or reduce the hazard.

(4) Handling, storage and disposal of fluorescent bulbs shall be in accordance to manufacturers' instructions.

(5) Fluorescent bulbs shall be stored in suitable containers.

(6) Where fluorescent bulbs are disposed of by crushing or compacting, it shall be done in an area adequately ventilated to protect the health and safety of the worker and the worker shall be provided with and use appropriate protective equipment.

Part VI OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

Section 50 Musculoskeletal injury prevention

50. (1) For the purpose of this section and sections 51 to 54, "musculoskeletal injury (MSI)" means an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue, including a sprain, strain and inflammation, that may be caused or aggravated by work.

(2) An employer shall

(a) recognize factors in the workplace that may expose workers to a risk of musculoskeletal injury; and

(b) evaluate the risk to workers presented by the factors that have been recognized under paragraph (a).

Section 51 MSI: risk control

51. (1) An employer shall eliminate, or where elimination is not practicable, minimize the risk of musculoskeletal injury to a worker through the implementation of a control measure that may include one or more of the following:

(a) providing, positioning and maintaining equipment that is designed and constructed to reduce or eliminate the risk of musculoskeletal injury;

(b) developing and implementing safe work procedures to eliminate or reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury;

(c) implementing work schedules that incorporate rest and recovery periods, changes to workload or other arrangements for alternating work; and

(d) providing personal protective equipment in accordance with Part VII.

(2) Personal protective equipment may only be used as a substitute for engineering or administrative controls where it is used in circumstances in which those controls are not practicable.

(3) An employer shall, without delay, implement interim control measures when the introduction of permanent control measures are delayed.

Section 52 MSI: education and training

52. An employer shall ensure that a worker who is or may be exposed to a risk of musculoskeletal injury is

(a) educated in risk identification related to work, including the recognition of early signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal injury and its potential health effects; and

(b) trained in the use of specific control measures, including, where applicable, work procedures, mechanical aids and personal protective equipment.

Section 53 MSI: evaluation

53. An employer shall

(a) monitor the effectiveness of a control measure implemented to eliminate or reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury; and

(b) where the monitoring referred to in paragraph (a) identifies a risk of musculoskeletal injury that is not or has not been eliminated or reduced, implement additional control measures, where reasonably practicable.

Section 54 MSI: consultation

54. (1) An employer shall consult with the occupational health and safety committee, the worker health and safety representative or the workplace health and safety designate, as applicable.

(2) An employer shall, when performing a risk assessment, consult with

(a) workers with signs or symptoms of musculoskeletal injury; and

(b) a representative sample of the workers who are required to carry out the work being assessed.

Section 55 Seating or standing work

55. (1) Where a worker in the course of his or her work has a reasonable opportunity to sit without detriment to his or her work, an employer shall provide and maintain suitable seating for the worker's use to enable him or her to take advantage of that opportunity.

(2) Where a substantial proportion of work can be done while seated, an employer shall provide and maintain for a worker a seat suitably designed, constructed, dimensioned and supported for the worker to do the work, including, where necessary, a footrest that can readily and comfortably support the feet.

(3) Where a worker is required to stand for long periods in the course of his or her work, an employer or contractor shall provide an antifatigue mat, footrest or other suitable device to provide relief.

Section 56 Lifting and handling

56. (1) An employer or contractor shall ensure, where reasonably practicable, that suitable equipment is provided and used for the handling of heavy or awkward loads.

(2) Where use of equipment is not reasonably practicable, an employer or contractor shall take all practicable means to adapt heavy or awkward loads to facilitate lifting, holding or transporting by workers, or to otherwise minimize the manual handling required.