OHS Canada Magazine

No perfect grades, but plenty of progress: NSC releases first-ever MSD Solutions Index Report

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January 11, 2024
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety MSD MSDs MSI MSIs National Safety Council

Photo: National Safety Council

The National Safety Council (NSC) has unveiled the inaugural findings of the MSD Solutions Index Pledge Community Report.

The report reveals crucial insights into the effectiveness of current MSD prevention strategies among its 52 participating organizations across various industries. The findings underscore the complexity of  prevention, with no organization achieving a perfect score.

But if you’re a glass-half full type, there is some good news in the report: A majority are displaying significant progress in areas like risk reduction and safety culture.

“What gets measured gets managed, which is why collecting workplace data is critical to helping organizations mitigate MSDs,” said Paul Vincent, executive vice-president of workplace practice at NSC.

“Through the MSD Solutions Index, not only does it provide direct, tangible takeaways for each pledging organization, but it offers key insights that can be applied across industries to improve MSD prevention,” he said. “Addressing the most common workplace injury on a global scale has never been done before, and initiatives like this help our entire safety community be better positioned to create safer outcomes for millions of workers worldwide.”


Part of that initiative was a pledge, launched in June 2022, that to date has been signed by 170 organizations representing more than 2.7 million workers across the world.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common workplace injury in the United States, costing private-sector businesses nearly $17 billion a year, according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index.

More than 50 organizations participated

Starting in December 2022 and concluding in June 2023, 52 MSD Pledge members – representing the manufacturing, professional, transportation and warehousing, healthcare, utilities and several other industries – completed the 46-question MSD Solutions Index survey.

Organizations received an overall index result, as well as results for the three pledge commitment subsections, that fell into one of five results categories representing MSD prevention maturity: novice, reactive, advancing, proactive and innovating.

What it found

No organization earned a perfect score on the MSD Solutions Index, underscoring the complexity of MSDs and their prevention. However, 85% received overall results in the advancing (39%) or proactive (46%) categories, while 15% were in the reactive category. Further, 54% rated their workplace’s ability to prevent MSDs as either very good or excellent.

Larger organizations, defined as those with more than 1,000 employees, are generally more effective at mitigating MSD risk, as they are more likely to have mature, long-standing safety programs and resources to adopt more complex MSD solutions and technology, it said. In contrast, the majority of small to medium sized businesses established their safety program in the last five years.

Eight in 10 pledge members have some form of MSD prevention or ergonomics program in place, and 65% have methods for tracking MSD rates across their workplace.

Nearly two-thirds of organizations regularly conduct employee perception surveys, and nearly 90% have methods in place for workers to share suggestions for safety improvements. Notably, the MSD Solutions Index showed that when it comes to safety decisions related to workstation design, employees’ physical work environment and workflow, frontline workers are regularly consulted on these issues, which leads to stronger safety cultures.

However, while larger organizations are more likely to administer employee perception surveys, they saw lower levels of trust and frontline worker involvement in decision making.

Nearly 85% of organizations reported that psychosocial risk factors contribute to MSDs in their workplace. These risk factors include things like mental health, fatigue, lack of tracking, and lack of personnel and proper equipment or tools.

More than 80% of pledging members that completed the MSD Solutions Index are currently using technology in their workplace to prevent MSDs and just as many are effective at ensuring these best practices are broadcast widely across their organizations.

Areas of opportunity

The report identified some areas of opportunity, such as improving methods of tracking MSDs, quantifying psychosocial risk factors, continually monitoring and assessing physical risk factors, sharing best practices outside of an organization, and understanding the workforce’s unique needs.

In addition, the report outlined several steps and actions organizations should take to achieve impactful MSD programs, including:

  • Engaging senior leadership, designating an MSD solutions champion to represent the workforce, and creating and empowering an MSD solutions team to collaborate throughout an organization
  • Collecting and responding to employee feedback regularly and measuring the progress of an MSD program and safety culture, and tracking the impact, solutions effectiveness, return on investment and year-over-year change
  • Identifying risk factors with involvement from frontline workers and implementing appropriate changes
  • Ensuring MSD solutions are equitable for all employees.


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