March 2, 2005

Meeting scheduled for March 7

Panel will study repetitive strain injuries

The province is setting up a special ergonomics advisory group to recommend ways to protect workers.

Labour Minister Chris Bentley says it’s part of the government’s plan to reduce workplace injuries by 20 per cent by 2008.

“In 2003, there were over 40,000 musculoskeletal injuries to workers, largely due to overexertion or ergonomic problems,” he said.

“That’s over 40 per cent of all workplace lost-time injuries.

“The establishment of a special advisory panel to tackle this issue was a key recommendation of the Minister’s Health and Safety Action Groups last fall.”

The panel, whose members were recruited over the past few months, will examine best practices, policies and enforcement options for addressing ergonomic injuries.

The first meeting will be held March 7. The panel will report back to the minister within seven months with recommendations on strategies to reduce ergonomic injuries in Ontario’s manufacturing sector. Among others, the sector includes industrial, automotive, retail and restaurant businesses.

The group will be chaired by Kevin Flynn, parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Labour. The group will have representatives from employer and labour groups, including:

— Business Council on Occupational Health and Safety.

— CAW Canada

— Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association

— Industrial Accident Prevention Association

— The Ontario Federation of Labour

— United Steelworkers of America, Canadian national office

Staff from the Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will also provide support.

“These organizations bring together a wide range of expertise on ergonomic issues and a strong commitment to reducing such injuries in Ontario workplaces,” said Bentley.

The labour ministry has already taken a number of actions to address ergonomic issues.

They include:

— The establishment of an ergonomics working panel for the manufacturing sector that will make recommendations to the Minister of Labour on how to reduce ergonomics-related injuries.

— The development of a co-ordinated strategy for the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries among the Ministry of Labour, the WSIB and Ontario’s 14 health and safety associations, to be ready in the spring of 2005.

— An allocation of $60 million announced by the Ontario government on Feb. 9 from a federal diagnostic/medical equipment fund for bed lifts to help reduce back injuries to nurses. This was on top of $14 million provided in 2004.

— The funding by the WSIB of a two-year research project on ergonomic interventions at the University of Waterloo.

— The offering of expertise and workplace evaluations by the Ministry of Labour, the WSIB and Ontario’s various safe workplace associations to improve ergonomics and help prevent injuries.

— The hiring of 100 new health and safety inspectors who will start work this spring, targeting high-risk workplaces. Repetitive strain and other ergonomic dangers are some of the issues inspectors specifically look for in workplaces and may write orders where they identify contraventions.

— The commitment of the government to hiring another 100 health and safety inspectors over the next year.

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