MSDs—How to Protect Yourself as a Healthcare Worker
/ Author: CLAC Staff
/ Categories: Newsletters, Sectors, Health Care /
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MSDs—How to Protect Yourself as a Healthcare Worker

Here are some signs and symptoms of MSDs, what to do if you suffer one, and how to prevent them.

From October through December 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development conducted workplace compliance initiatives for musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) prevention at workplaces across the province. In long term care homes, inspectors focussed on resident handling activities associated with lifting, transferring, and repositioning. It is well established that this type of repetitive work may lead to the development of MSDs, which can cause painful and debilitating workplace injuries.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, MSDs are the top lost-time injury at work reported to WSIB in Ontario. These are the most frequent injuries reported by workers in long term care. In 2017, MSDs represented approximately one-third of all accepted WSIB lost-time claims. MSDs were responsible for

- 19,000 claims,

- 462,000 days lost from work, and

- $72 million in direct WSIB costs.

The musculoskeletal system includes muscles, tendons and tendon sheaths, nerves, bursa, blood vessels, joints/spinal discs, and ligaments. Here are some signs and symptoms of MSDs, what to do if you suffer one, and how to prevent them.

3 Signs

  1. Swelling
  2. Redness
  3. Difficulty moving a body part

4 Symptoms

  1. Pain
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling
  4. Weakness

Left untreated, MSDs can progress into chronic conditions.

3 Health Effects

  1. Muscle strain
  2. Tendonitis
  3. Carpal tunnel syndrome

In many cases, you may not even realize that the task you are performing carries a risk of sustaining an MSD. Be aware of the type of task you are performing and the potential effects it may have on your body.

4 Risk Factors

  1. Force – lifting, pushing, pulling, gripping
  2. Repetition – doing a task repeatedly with no chance for rest or recovery
  3. Work posture – awkward and static positions cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to work harder
  4. Local contact stress – hard or sharp objects contacting the skin (tools, work surfaces)

How long and how much of each risk factor you are exposed to can greatly increase your chance of suffering an MSD.

If You Suffer an MSD

  • Report it immediately to your supervisor. An injury will have a better chance of being treated effectively if it is caught early.
  • Ensure that incident reports are completed in accordance with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. It is critically important that you report all MSD injuries—regardless of whether or not they result in lost-time injuries—because MSD injuries such as back strain, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome are often cumulative in nature. Failure to report injuries opens the door to allow your employer to claim your condition was a preexisting injury so the claim can be denied.
  • Follow up with your steward if you have suffered an MSD injury at work. Your employer is required to report all lost-time injuries to the Joint Health and Safety Committee and to the union within four days of injury. Often times, this requirement is not followed, which means that the union is unaware that you have been injured. Our job is to ensure that your WSIB claim proceeds without undue delay, that you are provided with accommodated work consistent with your functional abilities as you transition back to work, and that all efforts are made to ensure similar injuries do not occur.


  • Connect with the worker member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee or your health and safety representative at your workplace and ask them about what your employer is doing to prevent MSD injuries.
  • Your employer must conduct MSD risk assessments, eliminate or minimize the chance of workers suffering an MSD, and provide training and education about MSD risks.
  • Educate yourself on the dangers of MSD hazards and workplace solutions by accessing the MSD Prevention Guideline at


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