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Musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) driving time-loss claims with WorkSafeBC

Published on: July 09, 2024

MSIs have resulted in more than $2 billion in claim costs in the last five years

WorkSafeBC is drawing attention to the impact of musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) in B.C. workplaces and the need for employers to reduce the risks of these injuries.

An MSI is an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, or blood vessels. Injuries may include sprains, strains, and inflammation, while disorders may include tendonitis, bursitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Some of the tasks we perform at work, such as lifting, reaching and repetitive motions, can strain our bodies and cause an MSI,” says Suzana Prpic, director of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC. “In fact, MSIs are the most common type of workplace injury, accounting for 30 percent of all WorkSafeBC time-loss claims, and 26 percent of claim costs.”

Between 2019 and 2023, WorkSafeBC accepted approximately 83,000 time-loss claims for MSIs, with the associated cost exceeding $2 billion.

MSIs are pervasive across multiple industries, but most frequently impact workers in health care, retail, local government, restaurants, public schools, and trades.

Workers suffering from MSIs often endure reduced quality of life, chronic disability, and psychological distress. Beyond the human toll on workers, MSIs also affect employers, resulting in increased absenteeism and turnover, and higher insurance premiums.

What employers can do

Employers must conduct risk assessments for MSIs in their workplace and eliminate or minimize the risks. Employers must also educate and train workers about MSI risks in the workplace.

“Integrating MSI prevention into occupational health and safety programs is essential,” says Prpic. “Employers should identify tasks that may pose a risk of MSIs, such as repetitive motions, heavy lifting, or awkward movements, and then determine how these risks can be mitigated.”

To identify the jobs or work activities with MSI risk factors, employers should review records — including first aid records, injury claims, and the results of incident investigations — make workplace observations and speak with workers who perform the job.

WorkSafeBC adds that it is essential to involve workers and joint health and safety committees throughout the process, as they have the best understanding of the work and its risks and hazards.

Promoting a culture of reporting is also crucial, as many MSIs develop gradually and are only addressed when symptoms become severe enough to require time off work.

WorkSafeBC's inspectional focus

WorkSafeBC’s planned inspectional initiatives identify and target industries and employers with a high risk of serious workplace injury and a significant contribution to the serious injury rate and the time-loss claims rate.

Several of WorkSafeBC’s planned inspectional initiatives emphasize MSI prevention across various sectors. Additionally, a specific MSI Planned Inspectional Initiative in 2024 is directed at supermarkets and large retailers.

WorkSafeBC also provides resources and tools to help workers and employers identify, assess, and control the risk factors for MSIs.

For more information on preventing MSIs and promoting workplace safety, see our Ergonomics webpage.

Resources:

About WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC engages workers and employers to prevent injury, disease, and disability in B.C. When work-related injuries or diseases occur, WorkSafeBC provides compensation and support to people in their recovery, rehabilitation, and safe return to work. We serve 2.7 million workers and 280,000 employers across B.C.

For more information, contact:

Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Email: media@worksafebc.com
Tel: 604.276.5157