The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has announced that it will be conducting a blitz program of inspections targeting Ontario workplaces, concentrating on materials handling. The blitz will last throughout the month of February.
“Materials handling” includes common actions such as lifting, setting down, carrying, pushing or pulling materials. (Note that this is not restricted to hazardous materials; materials such as brick, stone and earth would also be covered.) The main concern of the Ministry is that improper handling of materials can result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs cover damage to soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and other parts of the body that might be strained, torn, irritated or otherwise damaged.
The stakes are high – the Ministry estimates that more than 40 per cent of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, as well as lost time due to injuries, are caused by MSDs. Therefore, inspectors (sometimes accompanied by ergonomists) will be visiting Ontario workplaces to ensure that workers are able to minimize these risks.
The blitz will concentrate on the following types of workplaces:
• mining; and
• industrial establishments.
Typical areas that an inspector will look at include:
• Safe procedures for moving and storage of materials.
• Appropriate employee training in safe handling.
• Housekeeping in materials handling areas.
• Safety of egress and exit points.
• Ladder safety.
• Maintenance of equipment used for materials handling.
The blitz is part of Ontario’s Safe at Work Ontario strategy, that was rolled out in 2008.Previous blitzes have targeted personal protective equipment, and infection control.
So, if you see an inspector from the MOL in your workplace this month, don’t be surprised. It’s all part of the MOL’s efforts to keep our employees safe and at work.
More information can be found on the MOL website at http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/topics/pains.php, including videos showing what hazards exist, and what inspectors will be looking for.