How to Convince Management to Invest in Prevention of MSIs


Getting senior management to invest in safety programs and initiatives can be a struggle. But at least management seems to understand that it must take steps to prevent workers from being cut, breaking bones or getting entangled in machinery. They seem to have a harder time understanding that the duty to protect workers also extends to less obvious injuries that can develop slowly over time, such as musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) caused by ergonomics problems in the workplace. (Click here for more information on employers’ legal obligations for addressing ergonomics in the workplace.)

One way to get senior management’s support for an ergonomics program is by showing that such a program can benefit the company by both preventing MSIs and saving the company money. Here’s a case study from the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) that you can use. The company in the study saved about 10 times more than it spent on its ergonomics program—to the tune of almost $245,000.

Car Parts Manufacturer Saves Nearly $250,000 from PE Program

An Ontario auto parts manufacturer asked IWH researchers to help it implement a participatory ergonomics (PE) program to improve workers’ musculoskeletal health. A PE program brings workers, supervisors and other key workplace personnel together to identify and solve problems to reduce the risk of MSIs.

An ergonomics change team was set up to implement the PE program at the worksite. The team included:

  • Worker representatives from all shifts;
  • A union and a corporate health and safety representative;
  • A mechanical engineer;
  • The production manager;
  • The tooling supervisor;
  • Human resources representatives; and
  • A person from the research team.

Following the steps outlined in the how-to guide Participative Ergonomic Blueprint (available at, the team identified and prioritized potential ergonomic changes based on departmental injury rates, worker suggestions, worker pain reports and production and quality issues.

Over the next 11 months, the team made 10 physical changes to the plant. They included five easier-to-implement “fast track” changes, such as installing anti-fatigue matting to reduce leg and back fatigue and fabricating a 45-degree angle on a tool to reduce wrist flexion. They also included five more-involved “full process” projects, such as installing platforms to reduce low-back stressors and changing a packing protocol to reduce above-shoulder work.

Benefits of Program

IWH Scientist Dr. Emile Tompa and his team conducted an economic evaluation of the PE program. They calculated the program costs at $24,400, including the time and money spent on training, meetings, change implementation, ergonomics expertise and equipment.

They then looked at the number and duration of workers’ compensation claims, modified work cases, first-aid-only injuries, short- and long-term disability (STD/LTD) claims and casual absences before and after the PE program was introduced. Significant reductions were seen in only one measure — the length of time workers spent on STD/LTD. That figure went down by 52%, representing a savings of about $244,420 over 23 months.

All in all, the findings indicate how important it is for companies to look beyond workers’ compensation costs when determining the economic benefits of prevention programs. “The benefits of a PE program can surface in many places within a company,” Tompa points out. The results of the economic evaluation indicate that “PE can play a role in both primary and secondary prevention in the workplace,” says Tompa. “In other words, it can be effective in not only reducing injuries, but also reducing the severity of injuries when they do occur.”

  • Eduar

    Yes, the competence of some of the pploee masquerading as OHS Professionals is definitely a problem. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there preying on small businesses and taking money under false pretences.But the REAL problem with professional competence is threefold:!. Standing as a Safety Professional (SIA etc) should be based on actual competence not rigid adherence to level of qualification. A lot of work needs be done to establish such a framework. My Postgrad qualification from a highly regarded university, is in reality worth nothing more than a TAFE Certificate IV but it cost heaps more (feepaying students only) and took far less time. This suited me as a busy professional looking to validate years of learning, research, work which was reflected in my average distinction grade. But no-one who stayed enrolled and finished the coursework was going to actually fail that course 2. The system of education does teach would be OHS professionals many things theories, systems, techniques, technical knowledge regarding a huge range of workplace hazards. There is no substitute for real world, at the coalface (metaphorically) workplace experience and real life experience and understanding of pploee who are at the heart of our endeavour. It takes time and a variety of exposures to gain this wisdom.3. Bigger businesses employ OHS officers SHEQ coordinators HSE Managers etc. (variously titled, various and broad range of responsibilities) and gives them:- insufficient authority and autonomy;- inadequate resources,- the task of meeting all relevant regulatory requirements without any unerstanding, due diligence, or commitment by senior managers and directors.Business really doesn’t know what to look for in a safety advisor but they certainly dont want a critic, one who bucks their system.I frequently get to see the results of this, small and micro businesses who are too afraid to seek help from the regulator because they (mistakenly) believe they’ll automatically be fined for regulatory breaches, turning to under qualified (or not qualified) self styled experts. Or acessing no advice at all!Bigger businesses often have opressed safety officers (out of their depth in the corporate world) who are unable to make any real changes to the way things are done around here but are responsible for of a huge and and unwieldy OHS management system, mainly comprised of massess of documentation, which supposedly evidences the employer’s commitment to and action on safety issues.It’s a mess. No wonder the uninformed observer sheets home blame to the OHS professional, or whines about red tape and over regulation. Reality falls so far from intent.