Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Aches, Pains, and Office Strains
Year Submitted 2018
Awarded Honourable Mention
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Geeta Sharma Director, Environment, Health, Safety (EHS) & Risk Management
Name of Institution Ryerson University
Office Address 415 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B2E7
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Telephone: 416-979-5000 ext. 553079
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Janice Winton
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) VP, Administration and Finance
Office Address 380 Victoria Street, Jorgenson Hall
Toronto, Ontario M5B2K3
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Telephone: 416-979-5000 ext. 5006
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Statistics Canada has estimated that 20% of the current Canadian workforce (3.5 million) is 55 or older, with that expected to increase to 25% by 2021. Universities have realized a rapid increase in technology that has changed the way employees and students physically interact with their workspaces.  This intersection of demographics and technology has resulted in an increased number of Canadians who spend more time on a computerized workstation and often lead more sedentary lifestyles.  These factors often lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). In Ontario alone, MSDs currently represent the top lost-time work injury with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

From 2005 to 2015, 39% of Ryerson's Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) were due to MSDs.  Despite being consistently lower than industry averages, Ryerson’s Environmental Health and Safety department (EHS) targeted reducing these injuries by building the level of awareness about ergonomics through a series of injury prevention programs. This shift to proactive prevention led to the creation of a one-of-a kind ergonomics program to combat MSDs and raise awareness on pains and strains in the workplace.

Ryerson’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department sought a partnership with a chiropractor with HighPoint Wellness, Dr. Patrick Welsh.  Together, they successfully implemented a robust ergonomics program, which significantly reduced Lost Time Injuries to 15% within the first few months by implementing the following:

  • EHS hosted numerous in-class sessions where simulated office work-stations were available for employees to learn how to improve workstation ergonomics with a facilitator.  Fact sheets on "Stretches You can do at your desk" and "How to set up an ergonomic workstation" were also provided.

  • Self-study resources such as an e-learning module to teach users how to recognize MSDs, adjust their workstations, and integrate stretching into their day-to-day activities were introduced.

  • Three videos were created: Setting up Your Desktop and Laptop WorkstationWorking Ergonomically with Handheld TechnologyMusculoskeletal Injury Prevention

  • EHS shortlisted several ergonomic task chairs in various sizes and styles to accommodate our diverse population and working styles.

  • New design specifications for office and laboratory furniture included ergonomics for all future renovations and construction projects.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.


Ryerson University takes an ongoing and proactive approach in improving campus wide programs in the identification and management of risks.  This robust ergonomic program is not just limited to the academic sector but can be applied to other industries. Ryerson has a number of resources that enable learning across various platforms which could easily be used or adapted for other institutions.  

There are two posters currently available for downloading on the EHS website. These were handed out at training sessions as well as posted across campus. The three videos created by EHS were uploaded on YouTube and are publicly available.  They’ve already been viewed over 200 times in the past few months.

Quality Impact

The three key elements to Ryerson's success included building capability through the creation of self study resources, standardization of workplace equipment, and the development of comprehensive design specifications interwoven with an ergonomic mindset. Since the launch of Ryerson's ergonomic program, employee engagement in personal well-being has flourished. By allowing faculty, staff and students to have a personal choice from available ergonomic equipment and resources, a culture promoting workplace wellness has developed.

The online modules, fact sheets, and videos created to raise awareness on MSD prevention, workstation setup, and ergonomic practices for handheld devices and smartphones made it applicable and available to all Ryerson community members in a variety of platforms for a variety of learning styles. In 2017, two additional face-to-face training modules were developed to deepen employee knowledge by identifying common ergonomic hazards and effective control methods for office ergonomics and materials manual handling.  A Placement Coordinator wrote afterwards, “The session was very informative and I have been telling everyone about it.”

The shift to an ergonomic mindset has been evidenced with the huge success and stakeholder feedback from many employees such as Laboratory Safety Manager  of the University’s Chemistry and Biology Department, who has recently requested EHS expand materials and sessions to include laboratory seating to meet the needs of both the research and teaching facilities.

Further feedback about the materials distributed has been positive even as part of a follow-up to the in-person sessions. An Administrative Assistant from Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism wrote, “I thought the training session provided a lot of useful information and resources that we can incorporate or use to make our office space a better one. I even forwarded links to your website to our faculty to recommend the stretches for stress relief and see the other videos and instructional information about set ups for screens, etc.!”

As well, attendees were given handouts at the end of each session to rate their experience on a 5-point likert scale (Poor/Not at all/No = 1; Average/Moderate/Neutral = 3; Excellent/Very /Highly Recommend =5). The following is the mean rating from the attendees who submitted the form.

  • My overall rating of this seminar 4.6
  • My overall rating of this speaker 4.9
  • My overall rating of the audio-visual handouts 4.5
  • The extent to which the seminar met your objectives 4.5
  • Would you recommend this seminar to others? 4.7

When asked to comment what they liked about the training sessions, attendees indicated the following:

  • Demonstration/practical component
  • How to recognize common problems
  • The use of simple tips and practical application
  • Using EHS staff as examples
  • Setting up workstation and not having to rely on others

When asked to comment on what could have been done differently to make the sessions more effective, attendees listed the following:

  • More time/longer sessions
  • More exercise advice
  • Answer individual questions
  • Address individual ergonomic needs

When asked to list other training topics they would like to see offered in the future, attendees indicated the following:

  • Daily stretches/exercises
  • How to treat MSDs
  • Where to purchase the correct ergonomic equipment
Productivity Impact


The impact on productivity has been two-fold. In previous years, the EHS team spent over 800 hours completing ergonomic assessments on a case by case basis. This resulted in a strain on resources that limited the team's ability to focus on proactive ergonomic injury prevention strategies. This also took focus away from addressing other concerns and building additional key health and safety programs to meet the needs of all stakeholders at Ryerson.

This shift to proactive prevention through a unique ergonomic programming has been demonstrated in a significant reduction in Ryerson's LTIs over one year.

The ergonomics program has significantly improved our client-centric model by enabling fast and effective service by a click of a mouse.



Ryerson's ergonomic program is one-of-a-kind within the academic sector based on the creation of quick, user friendly, and informative resources that raise awareness about MSDs and common ergonomic risks in the workplace. The success of the program was made possible through an innovative partnership with High Point Wellness Centre.  The EHS team was able to work closely with Dr. Patrick Welsh to develop targeted and distinct content with specific applicability to a university setting.

The Office Ergonomics Program launch to the University community included design and distribution of ergonomics fact sheets, the creation of a number of video and web resources, campuswide standardization of new Ergonomic Task Chairs, and the development of two new ergonomic training modules.

Fact Sheets and E-Modules

The ergonomic fact sheets used only current Ryerson students hired as EHS interns to provide accompanying visual demonstrations.  Setting up an ergonomic workstation had 60 page views in one year and Stretches you can do at your desk had 26 distinct page views in one year. Two new online ergonomic training modules were also launched in November 2017 to cover Office Ergonomics and Material Manual Handling (MMH) and 14 attendees have already participated.

EHS also created various tools such as a 60-minute e-learning module "Aches, Pains and Office Strains" that teaches users how to recognize MSDs, adjust their workstation ergonomically and integrate stretching into their day-to-day activities.


YouTube Videos

EHS interns also collaborated with Ryerson and HighPoint staff to create 3 new YouTube videos: Setting up your desktop or laptop ergonomically; Working ergonomically with handheld devices; and Musculoskeletal prevention strategies which have been viewed 135, 46, and 67 times respectively.


Website and Live Sessions

During this time, the Ergonomics website was rebranded to include the fact sheets and videos, which has now received over 2,000 unique page views.  As well, EHS also arranged live training sessions with HighPoint Wellness to raise awareness about institutional office ergonomics.  Ten different posters were developed, printed, and placed at the entrances of various university buildings to increase awareness about these available sessions.


Ergonomic Task Chairs

A total of 90,015 office ergonomic task chairs were ordered by both the EHS team and individual Ryerson departments and service groups.  These new chairs have been deployed in seven Ryerson buildings and two leased spaces, and at least 64 community members have “test-driven” the chairs on offer.  A staff member from Grand and Toy participating in one of the training sessions wrote, “I really enjoyed the training sessions and found that the people that attended seemed mostly very engaged. there were a fairly good number of participants, they were interested and engaged. Most of the people would go around to each of the chair "corners" and check out/test the sample chairs and ask questions.”

Ergonomic assessments were still completed, but the annual reduction has been significant.   Whereas previously EHS staff would complete 100-150 assessments annually, only 23 ergonomic assessments have been conducted since 2017. This significantly reduced the high time demand on EHS staff and increased productivity in other areas.

Supporting Documents