Prevention of MSDs due to Manual Materials Handling


Keywords: Manual Materials Handling; Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs); Ergonomics; Legislation; Enforcement

Date: June 27, 2011

Presenters: Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD)

Funder: CRE-MSD

Project type: Workshop

Sector/Workplace type: All

Theme 3 Risk assessment and hazard identification
Theme 4 Intervention
Theme 5 Implementation


Manual Materials Handling includes the lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying of loads and it occurs in all sectors. The MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario is now five years old. Ontario needs to evaluate its success and work out what to do next.

Goals and process

The focus of the Discussion Forum was on the reduction of MSDs caused by Manual Materials Handling (MMH) at work. 100 people representing workers, unions, health and safety, business and government bodies came together to discuss six themes. These themes were: jurisdictional approaches, MMH risk assessment, resources for workplace parties, sector specific strategies, communication and evaluation.

The morning consisted of presenters from British Columbia, USA, Australia and the UK relating their experiences in creating and implementing policies on MMH at work.

The afternoon was dedicated to participant discussion on what a made-in-Ontario solution would look like.


From the presentations:

  • It is difficult to make any direct link between the decrease in MSDs to prevention or legislation activities
  • Worker-management collaboration is essential for MMH prevention activities
  • Different enforcement approaches are possible. 
  • Inspector training is critical
  • Workplaces need guidance to help make ergonomic improvements

From the afternoon discussions:

  • A simple and easy to apply, province-wide code of practice to address MMH hazards should be created and implemented at the government and workplace levels
  • Compliance: More guidance materials and transparent enforcement regarding ergonomics and MMH issues would be more helpful than specific regulations. 
  • People wanted an Ontario and/or sector-specific MMH tool box with tools that were straightforward and included examples.
  • There is a need for greater awareness about the high costs associated with MSDs due to MMH.
  • A new evaluation approach should be developed at the same time as any new MMH strategy to ensure strong and continuous improvement.

Implications for the prevention of MSDs

By identifying key short and long term goals and key principles, future policy and program development will be better guided in Ontario with regards to MMH.

Knowledge dissemination

For summary, presentations and videos, see the Prevention of MSDs due to Manual Materials Handling event page.