Most jurisdictions initiate ergonomics legislation with the goal of preventing or reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Although this domain will generally refer to cumulative injuries as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), other terms like repetitive motion injuries (RMIs), repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) or cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are also referred to in legislation and other ergonomic resources.
All of these terms refer to the same group of injuries that result from
cumulative exposure to hazards that can possibly lead to wear and tear on the body’s tissues and structures. The substantial impact of these injuries on the economy, as well as the impact on individuals and their families, provides political impetus for action to prevent injuries.
It is true that most Occupational Health and Safety regulations contain a “general duty” clause requiring employers to correct any undue hazards or risks to workers. Some jurisdictions use the “general duty” clause to enforce corrective measures related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. However, the experience of regulators, employers, and labour groups in some areas is that general duty clauses are not specific enough to be routinely used to require action on ergonomics issues.
Specific labour groups have strongly supported the development of ergonomics regulations to reduce the pain and suffering of work-related MSDs among their members and have worked collaboratively with employers and government to prevent and reduce MSDs.
What is happening in Canada?
There are a wide range of ergonomics regulations and other initiatives across Canada, either through Workers’ Compensation Boards, Ministries of Labour, or various Safe Workplace Associations or Occupational Health and Safety Agencies. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Mining Act only) have enforceable regulations that specifically refer to ergonomics issues.
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