Ministry of Labour ergonomists provide technical support to ministry inspectors and conduct inspections focusing on ergonomics to protect workers from ergonomics-related hazards.

Occupational ergonomics focuses on interactions between workers and elements in their workplaces. These elements can include equipment, work stations, work processes and environmental influences.

Effective ergonomics enhance worker well-being and overall performance. Inattention to ergonomics can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and cause acute injuries (for example falls, burns and vehicular accidents).

Challenges are posed by Ontario’s changing workforce demographics and ongoing evolution of workplaces, equipment and technology. This makes it even more crucial for workplaces to address ergonomics and MSD prevention.

Workplace parties can refer to the following documents when addressing MSD issues:

  • MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario
  • the guideline’s accompanying resource manual and toolbox and
  • sector-specific resources available through Ontario’s health and safety associations.

For more information, see the ministry’s Musculoskeletal disorders / ergonomics webpage.

The ergonomics work plan for 2017-2018 includes an inspection component that supports the Safe At Work Ontario initiative as well as investigative support to inspectors in response to events. Ergonomists:

  • initiate Safe At Work Ontario visits to workplaces with MSD and ergonomics-related hazards and/or have a history of MSDs
  • support inspectors who are conducting Safe At Work Ontario inspections
  • support relevant Safe At Work Ontario blitzes with ergonomics and MSD hazard information
  • participate in regional inspection initiatives and
  • investigate work refusals and complaints, and support investigations of fatalities and critical injuries.

Injury and illness trends

Musculoskeletal disorders continue to be one of the most common lost time injuries at work in Ontario. In 2015, MSD claims represented:

  • 34% of all lost time injury (LTI) claims
  • 2% of all days lost
  • 25% of all LTI claim costs for Schedule 1 workplaces and
  • 30% of all LTI claim costs for Schedule 2 workplaces.footnote 1

The more than 17,400 MSD claims in 2015 equated to:

  • more than 345,000 days lost and
  • more than $57 million in WSIB costs.

The decline of the MSD lost time injury rate for Schedule 1 from 2003 to 2015 was 64%.

Attention to MSDs is essential to assist in the ongoing decline of the overall LTI rate in Ontario.

By program in 2015, MSD claims represented:

  • 33% of all lost-time injury claims in the industrial sector
  • 38% of all lost-time injury claims in the health care sector
  • 30% of all lost-time injury claims in the construction sector
  • 36% of the total lost-time injury claims in the mining sector.

Ergonomics inspection focus

In addition to supporting the ministry’s general inspectorate, ergonomists also conduct proactive ergonomics-focused inspections.

Priority is given to workplaces identified as having a history of MSDs and that are known to have MSD or ergonomics-related hazards.

For 2017-2018, ergonomists will focus on:

  • Workplaces that have a history of MSDs
  • Food processing/manufacturing

    A number of MSD hazards are known to exist in the food processing and manufacturing industry. This was a proactive initiative for the regional ergonomists in 2011/12, but field intelligence identifies that MSD hazards are still an issue in this industry.

  • Tire handling and storage

    Workers performing tire handling and storage activities are exposed to MSD hazards including high forces lifting tires and rims and awkward postures when having to obtain tires from stacks or racking. Field intelligence has identified this work task as a concern. This has not been a specific focus in past initiatives.

  • Ladder use and access for manual materials handling

    Fall hazards due to the unsafe use of ladders that result in a worker not maintaining their balance are common throughout all sectors. In 2011, the ergonomics program developed four documents on guidelines for the use of ladders in industrial workplaces. Construction has a similar document on safe ladder use.

    Musculoskeletal disorder and fall hazards can also be present when other access systems (e.g. stairs, platforms, walkways) are not appropriate for the manual materials handling activities performed. These can be related to overreaching, and awkward or unbalanced postures/movements. This has not been a proactive initiative for ergonomists in the past.

Ministry inspectors are encouraged to include an MSD component in workplace inspections when appropriate.

Inspectors can request the assistance of ergonomists for any proactive or reactive workplace visit. Ergonomists are based at regional offices across the province.

Inspectors in all program areas conduct workplace inspections to check compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations, including requirements to prevent ergonomics-related hazards.

The ergonomics-related issues that inspectors may address during workplace visits are listed as follows.


  • manual materials handling (e.g., lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying)
  • manual materials handling while working on ladders
  • unnecessary manual materials handling due to obstructions
  • team lifting of heavy objects
  • use and maintenance of work carts
  • visibility hazards with vehicles and mobile equipment
  • fall hazards due to the unsafe use of ladders
  • policies, procedures, training and supervision


Health care

  • client handling (lifting, transferring and repositioning clients)
  • engagement of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) on MSD hazards
  • manual materials handling (e.g., lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying of objects)
  • providing and maintaining equipment
  • written measures and procedures, training and supervision
  • laboratory work stations
  • visibility hazards with vehicles and mobile equipment
  • fall hazards due to the unsafe use of ladders



  • emphasizing safe material handling, particularly during access/egress above/below ground level and while climbing ladders
  • proper storage and movement of material and equipment
  • maintaining unobstructed work routes
  • equipment maintenance
  • boxes not being used as work platforms
  • training on MSD prevention
  • visibility hazards with vehicles and mobile equipment
  • fall hazards due to the unsafe use of ladders



  • access to work areas and equipment (including vehicles)
  • interior of vehicle cabs
  • roadway conditions
  • stationary operator work stations
  • how items are stored and manually transported
  • how items such as supplies and equipment are handled
  • whether devices are used to assist in handling objects
  • visibility hazards with vehicles and mobile equipment
  • fall hazards due to the unsafe use of ladders



  • footnote[1] Back to paragraph Schedule 1 employers are those for which the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) is liable to pay benefit compensation for workers’ claims. Schedule 1 employers are required by legislation to pay premiums to the WSIB. Schedule 2 employers self-insure the provisions of benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.