Following up on the October recommendations of a joint labour-management Ergonomics Advisory Panel (see Ontario Considers Ergonomic Standard), Ontario Labour Minister Steve Peters announced January 30 that, beginning April 1, department inspectors will focus on “pains and strains” when inspecting workplaces in high-risk industries such as construction and health.

All evaluations and recommendations for corrective action will be advisory. Nevertheless, in announcing the new program, Peters explained that, “by targeting workplace pains and strains, we are protecting Ontario’s workers and strengthening our economy.” In Canada, only British Columbia and Saskatchewan have mandatory ergonomics regulations.

Peters noted that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a significant but often overlooked hazard, accounting for 42 percent of all lost-time injuries in the province.

The problem is equally serious in US industries, particularly construction. However, states and the federal government have been reluctant to establish mandatory standards. California is the only state with such a standard. Two years ago, Washington state defeated a standard in a statewide referendum.

In contrast, however, at the urging of the LHSFNA OSH Division and others, a voluntary ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard for U.S. industry is expected to be adopted this spring.  Also, last month, Michigan’s governor vetoed a bill thta would have prohibited the development of a standard in that state.