Q: What can our committee do to prevent musculoskeletal injuries?
Thanks for the question. In simplest terms, musculoskeletal injuries, or MSIs, are discomfort or pain from sprains and strains. They are the leading cause of lost time from work in Manitoba. MSIs can disrupt workers' abilities to carry out job tasks, and can carry over into their personal lives and limit leisure activities. It is important we do all we can to reduce these preventable injuries.
The way tasks are designed and carried out can affect a worker's chance of developing an MSI. Damage can occur suddenly, or develop over time from the build-up of trauma to the tissues. MSIs are caused by:
- forceful exertion, such as pushing, pulling, lifting or carrying
- awkward or sustained postures, such as leaning, bending or reaching
- repetitive motions
- contact stress (contact with hard or sharp objects)
- limitations on a worker's motions.
Part 8 of the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Regulation
states that when a work activity creates a risk of MSIs, the risk must be assessed and controls put in place to reduce or eliminate the hazard.
Committee members can take action by:
- Learning all they can about MSI hazards in their workplace. Review existing safe work procedures and hazard assessments in your workplace related to MSI prevention. Access training and resources from SAFE Work Manitoba or your industry-based safety program.
- Recognizing and reporting MSI hazards during inspections. For example, do tasks require working in poor postures? Do workers complain of soreness from tasks? Are mechanical assists available and are they being used correctly? Have hazard assessments been performed on tasks with risks for MSIs?
- Receiving worker concerns. A worker may share with a committee member that they feel their work could lead to an MSI. Concerns are reviewed by the committee to help reach a resolution.
- Reviewing workplace documentation to ensure MSI prevention has been included. Do safe work procedures describe how to use mechanical assists, or describe the specific body movements required to perform a task safely? Have workers been trained on the safe work procedures, and how to recognize signs and symptoms of MSIs?
- Reviewing injury statistics. Does your workplace have an effective system that tracks injuries and near misses? Learn where MSIs are occurring. This will help you make improvements where they're needed.
Taking action to promote MSI prevention shows your commitment to the workers you represent, and to your workplace. The role you play is an important one: you can help raise awareness and prevent injuries. A workplace with lower MSI risk will be safer and more productive, and assures workers that their safety and health is a priority.
Roland Reenders is a Prevention Consultant in the Support Services Portfolio at SAFE Work Manitoba.