Webinar - Hybrid Work Arrangements and Ergonomics: Using Mobile Computing Devices at Multiple Locations

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST

In this webinar

Results from the recent CRE-MSD survey revealed that 67% of teleworkers would prefer some form of hybrid working arrangement post-pandemic. This webinar will present results related to the impact of remote workstation setup and work organization along with the insights into teleworkers’ motivations and preferences for hybrid work. This webinar will be of particular interest to those organizations that have adopted or are considering a hybrid working arrangement as it will address what is required of employers, as well as provide recommendations for supporting hybrid and remote workers.

About the presenter

Kim Meszaros
Kim Meszaros is a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist and the Ergonomics Research Coordinator at the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD). Kim’s main focus is maintaining and developing the MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario and collaborating with stakeholders to share and create MSD prevention resources for workplaces. She is also the Principal Ergonomist at Kinetic Kare and the National Student Committee Advisor for the Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE). Kim is passionate about increasing awareness on MSD prevention in the workplace and facilitating solutions to promote employee health, safety and wellness.

Webinar resources

Webinar recording (Webex)
Password (case sensitive): Office2023

Webinar slide presentation (PDF)

Responses to follow-up questions from the webinar

Responses were formulated in consultation with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Is it an employer's responsibility to provide/pay for an ergonomics assessment and provide office equipment recommended to an employee in a hybrid/work from home set up?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) does not apply to work performed by the owner or occupant in their own home. Based on this, the employer does not have any health and safety obligations to these workers under OHSA to provide equipment or conduct ergonomic assessments for and in a private residence. Section 3 of the OHSA outlines the application to private residences. Although the OHSA does not apply to a worker’s private residence, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) applies to workers who sustain a personal injury in the course of their employment [Section 13 (1)]. If a worker is injured at home during the course of employment, a valid claim would be accepted for employers covered under WSIB. This reinforces the importance of supporting workers with office ergonomics in all work locations to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

The OHSA, however, does apply to the office workplace. There are no explicit provisions in the Act that require an employer to provide certain office workstation equipment or conduct an ergonomic assessment, however, there are several general employer duties that can apply to office work settings and to ergonomic related hazards of computer work activities. An explanation of the legal requirements under the OHSA regarding the use of computers and mobile technology can be found here: Computer ergonomics | ontario.ca. Some of the notable sections from OHSA that apply to office workstations include:

  • Section 25(1)(b): The employer shall ensure that the equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition. For example, if an office chair is in disrepair and no longer adjusts to adequately support a worker in their computer workstation, the employer would be responsible for ensuring the chair is repaired or replaced.
  • Section 25(2)(a): Employers must provide information, instruction, and supervision to protect the health and safety of workers. Information and instruction related to computer work that helps to protect worker health and safety may include but is not limited to such topics as, how to recognize musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) hazards in computer work tasks and set up, how to properly adjust a computer workstation to reduce the potential for MSD, and instruction on workplace controls and work practices related to MSD prevention.
  • Section 25(2)(d) outlines a duty of the employer to acquaint workers or persons having authority over a worker with the hazards in their work and in the use of a device or piece of equipment. For example, an employer would need to make workers aware of MSD hazards associated with computer-based work and ensure the workers are aware of how to use the devices or equipment that have been provided such as adjustable office chairs or keyboard trays as an example.
  • Section 25(2)(h) of the Act, often referred to as the general duty clause, describes the employer’s duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, including from MSD hazards while working with computers or other mobile technology. The Ministry website has examples of precautions that may be considered to prevent MSD at computer workstations (Computer ergonomics | ontario.ca).

What are the legalities around the employer ONLY providing an ergonomic assessment to those who medically require it due to the cost (while 'ignoring' the rest of the non-medically required requests)?

Under the Ontario Human Right Code, employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, which can be disabilities stemming from an injury. Every situation is different and specific to the needs of the individual and some employers, to better understand those needs as they relate to the office computer workstation, will have ergonomic assessments completed.

Under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, employers have a duty to co-operate in the return to work process for employees with work-related injuries, which includes, “attempting to provide suitable employment that is available and consistent with the worker’s functional abilities and that, when possible, restores the worker’s pre-injury earnings.” An ergonomic assessment may be medically requested to assist in the return to work process and can assist an employer in understanding the demands of the job to determine any accommodations required to match the worker’s functional abilities.

There are no explicit provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that require an employer to provide certain office workstation equipment or conduct an ergonomic assessment. They must acquaint workers with the hazards in the work, including musculoskeletal disorder hazards, provide information and instruction to workers about those hazards and how to use and adjust equipment to protect worker health and safety. There are many resources available for workers and employers to review or self-examine their computer workstation to understand if potential MSD hazards are present and if the equipment has been set-up and adjusted to optimize posture and reduce the risk of MSD. Many of the Ontario health and safety system partners have resources to assist employers and workers to identify, assess and control MSD hazards in the office including:

Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1
Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, Chapter 16, Schedule A

For assistance, please contact Betina Butler at bbutler@uwaterloo.ca.

Disclaimer: CRE-MSD receives funding through a grant provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. The views expressed are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre nor of the Province of Ontario.