Reform of Quebecs Workplace Health-and-Safety Regime

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Reform of Quebec’s Workplace Health-and-Safety Regime
“Social Partnership” or Class Struggle?

David Mandel

Last January, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ – National Institute of Public Health) published a report on non-traumatic musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These are pains and other symptoms that affect muscles, tendons, joints and other tissues in the back, neck and other members. Some examples are tendinitis, bursitis, back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome. Their causes are bad posture, excessive loads, repetitive tasks, as well as psychological demands related to work.

Every year over a million Quebecers – one in four, and a majority of women – are afflicted with MSDs, which are associated with... more than five million lost workdays. Immigrants and low-income workers are more at risk of being absent from work because of MSDs, among other reasons “because of their greater exposure to certain unstable and painful work conditions that are associated with these disorders.”

In 2019 MSDs accounted for at least a third of the money paid out by the Commission for Norms, Equity and Workplace Health and Safety (CNÉSST) for treatments and replacement of wages. But those figures underestimate the extent of the problem because there is significant and well-documented under-declaration, linked, among other things, to difficulties in having MSDs recognized for compensation.

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