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Ontario’s work-related MSDs declining: study


October 17, 2014
By Canadian Chiropractor staff

Oct. 17, 2014 – Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are declining in Ontario along with other more traumatic job-related injuries, according to a study by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). The study was published online this week by the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Led by IWH president Cameron Mustard, the study tracks the incidence of
work-related non-traumatic musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other
work injuries in Ontario between 2004 and 2011 using three independent
sources of information. All three sources show a decline in both
work-related MSDs and traumatic work injuries over the eight-year
period.

Workers’ compensation lost-time claim records show a
48.2-per-cent decline in non-traumatic, work-related MSDs and a
39.4-per-cent decline in traumatic work-related injuries. Emergency
department treatment records show a 16.3-per-cent decline in MSDs and a
30.2-per-cent decline in other work injuries. And a Statistics Canada
national health survey shows a 40.7-per-cent decline in MSDs and
45.1-per-cent decline in other work injuries.

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“The study focuses
on MSDs separately from other work injuries because they represent the
largest disability burden among working adults in developed economies,”
said Mustard. “Moreover, the way workplaces assess and control
non-traumatic MSDs is very different than the way they do other more
traumatic work injuries.”

MSDs include sprains and strains of the
neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and other joints and
connective tissue of the musculoskeletal system as a result of awkward,
forceful and/or repetitive movements and postures. Over the past 10
years in Ontario, sprains and strains have consistently been the leading
type of work injury, representing 40 per cent of all lost-time claims
in the province in 2013, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance
Board 2013 statistical report.

“What's important about this
study is that it drew on three different data sources,” said Mustard.
“All three show a steady decline.”

The study cannot say if
declining injury rates can be attributed to deliberate efforts by
workplaces and health and safety system partners (e.g. governments,
health and safety associations) to reduce injury risk. However, “the
study does suggest that efforts to prevent MSDs are proving to be as
effective as efforts to prevent traumatic work-related injuries,” said
Mustard.

“The constant change and renewal in workplace equipment
and machinery might have played a role by reducing the amount of
lifting, pulling and reaching at work,” Mustard added. “Manual material
handling is basically gone in many, many sectors.”

The study,
titled “Time trends in musculoskeletal disorders attributed to work
exposures in Ontario using three independent data sources, 2004-2011,”
was published online Monday by Occupational and Environmental Medicine
(doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102442). It is is available at:
http://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2014/10/13/oemed-2014-102442.full

IWH
is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that aims to
protect and improve the health of working people. Recognized as one of
the top five occupational health and safety research centres in the
world, the Institute provides practical and relevant findings on the
prevention of work injury and disability to policy-makers, workers,
employers, clinicians, and health, safety and disability management
professionals: www.iwh.on.ca.
 


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