Prevention Quick Links
Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI) Prevention


What are MSIs?

MSIs are injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, intervertebral discs, blood vessels and other soft tissues, including sprains, strains, inflammation and nerve compression disorders.  MSIs can occur suddenly or develop over a period of weeks, months or even years. Some task demands, or ways in which we perform tasks, can put strain on our bodies and result in a MSI.

A MSI is also known as a soft-tissue injury.

Learn how to Adjust your chair to help prevent injury

Why should I be concerned about MSIs?

MSIs can be serious and disabling for workers, causing suffering ranging from discomfort to severe disability. The consequences can affect every aspect of a worker's life.

MSIs are also costly for employers. They are the number one type of lost-time injury in NL workplaces, resulting in huge direct and indirect costs for employers. On average, MSIs in NL account for:

  • 70% of all claims involving lost time from work
  • 74% of all costs related to lost-time claims
  • 78% of all weeks lost from work
  • $86 million in annual claims costs

Examples of indirect costs to employers include:

  • administration time spent by supervisors, safety personnel and clerical workers after an injury
  • overtime wages
  • training costs for replacement workers
  • lost productivity due to work stoppage, rescheduling, learning curves, and accommodation and retraining of injured workers
  • reduced work output and quality
  • workstation and equipment modifications

The human and economic costs of MSIs are unnecessary. These injuries are preventable.  

What causes MSIs?  

MSIs are strongly linked to known hazards in the workplace. There is extensive scientific literature to support that exposure to ergonomic-related hazards put workers at risk of developing MSIs. These include forceful exertions, repetitive movements and awkward and/or sustained postures.  

What is ergonomics?  

Ergonomics is a science dedicated to fitting the job or task to the capabilities of the worker rather than fitting the worker to the task. It is based upon principles of anatomy, anthropometry, biomechanics, physiology and psychology. The goal of ergonomics is to optimize or improve the interaction between people and their work such as the tools and equipment they use, the products they work with, the tasks they perform, how their work is organized, the technology they use, and the environment in which they work. 

Every person is different—height, weight, width, and limb length vary between individuals. Therefore, a tool or piece of equipment suitable for one worker may not be suitable for another. You can avoid injury, be more comfortable, improve worker satisfaction and productivity by properly matching people with the right tools for the job.  

How do I prevent MSIs in my workplace?  

The three essential components of MSI prevention include recognizing, evaluating and controlling MSI hazards, as is the case with any other health or safety hazard.  

You stand the best chance of preventing MSIs in your workplace when your health and safety program features an ergonomics component.  MSI prevention does not have to be a complex process.  Ergonomics can be built into your existing health and safety program. Resources are provided to assist you.  

Examples of how ergonomics can be applied in workplaces:  

  • designing jobs, tasks and workstations to fit the worker
  • ensuring workstations for multiple users are easily adjustable
  • ensuring equipment is appropriate for the task at hand
  • redesigning a process to make it more efficient
  • designing products to make them “user friendly”

Tips for designing or modifying your workplace:

  • keep everything (tools, materials, equipment) in easy reach
  • work at proper heights (in relation to the body of the worker) 
  • provide adjustable workstations (chairs, tables, platforms)
  • avoid excessive force where possible
  • work in a good comfortable posture
  • reduce excessive repetition
  • minimize general fatigue
  • minimize direct pressure on legs, feet and hands
  • ensure easy access and provide clearance 
  • maintain a comfortable environment (heat, light, humidity)  
  • improve work organization

What does the law say?

Employers are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from hazards that may result in MSIs. Please refer to the Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

Where can I get assistance?

WorkplaceNL has Health and Safety Advisors who can assist employers in matters regarding MSI prevention and ergonomics.  Our services are free, and include:

  • conducting information sessions with workers, OH&S committees, supervisors, managers, employers and industry associations on topics such as:
    • Legislative requirements
    • MSI hazard recognition, evaluation, control and follow-up
    • MSI prevention/Ergonomics in health and safety programs
    • Office ergonomics and computer workstation setup
    • Principles of safe lifting and lifting techniques
    • Warm-ups and stretching
    • Health promotion
  • assisting employers in implementing ergonomics into their health and safety programs
  • assisting employers in locating ergonomics service providers
  • answering specific ergonomics questions