Personal and workplace characteristics of work-related musculoskeletal upper extremity injury claims in Canada from 2000-2019


Keywords: Musculoskeletal diosrder; occupational biomechanica; workers' compensation; risk factors; injury prevention

Timeline: 2021-2022

Researchers: Daanish Mullah (McMaster University), Dr. Peter Keir (McMaster University)

Funder: CRe-MSD

Project type: Seed grant

Sector/workplace type: All industries, with a focus on physically demanding occupations


Although biomechanical and personal risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries are studied in small lab-based and epidemiological studies, injury rates in entire working populations in Canada remains unknown. Tracking injury rates at the population-level is required to identify areas of need for injury prevention among policymakers, health/safety personnel, and researchers.

Objectives/research question

The objective of this project is to investigate population-level personal and workplace risk factors (age, gender, occupation, and workplace exposures) for work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal injuries, as evidenced by workers’

compensation claims, across Canadian provinces and territories over the past 20 years.


Lost time injury claim data will be obtained from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC). Variables of interest include: (1) year, (2) province/territory, (3) age, (4) gender, (5) body part injured, (6) nature of injury, (7) event of injury, and (8) occupation. A combination of body part, nature, and event of injury will be used to filter out injury claims associated with exposure to physical workplace factors affecting the upper extremity. Injury claims will be normalized to the estimated at-risk, insured population to allow for comparisons in injury rates across age, gender, years, occupations, and province/territory. Descriptive statistics and statistical models will be used to investigate the effects of age, gender, occupation, and event exposure on injury claim rates for all upper extremity injuries as well as specific cases of injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tear/syndrome). Variation in injury rates across provinces/territories and trends over time will be explored.

Research team roles

Mr. Daanish Mulla is a PhD student at McMaster University and will lead all aspects of the study: project design, analysis, and knowledge translation/dissemination. Dr. Peter Keir is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and will oversee all aspects of the project and supervision of students.

Collaborations and partnerships

We will reach out to obtain data from the AWCBC. The data is available upon request, and we have previously worked with AWCBC for preliminary analyses. Analysis will be led by our research team. AWCBC will be recognized for all disseminated findings.

Knowledge transfer strategies

All findings will be presented at scientific ergonomics conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, we will explore the possibility of implementing an open-access user interface or dashboard that any individual could access to explore the data and findings for their own interest. Such an interface would be communicated through our presentation(s), published journal article(s), and social media.

Impacts and implications

The goal of this research is to provide an updated analysis on work-related upper extremity musculoskeletal injuries as evidenced by workers’ compensation data across all of Canada from 2000-2019. As trends will be examined over two decades, it can inform the level of success of previous injury prevention measures. Findings will also highlight which groups of workers remain at a high risk for injury, thus informing areas for further improvement. As such, the proposed research can advise policy making, programs, and interventions amongst health and safety officials for each jurisdiction and occupation.