Institute for Work & Health (IWH) recently released a study examining the relationship between occupational health and safety (OHS) vulnerability and work-related injury and illness.
The study shows workers who report being vulnerable because they are exposed to job hazards from which they are not adequately protected, also report much higher rates of work-related injury.
This finding was published in the journal Safety Science
Vulnerability was assessed using the OHS Vulnerability Measure developed at the Institute for Work & Health. The OHS Vulnerability Measure is a 27-item tool that assesses the extent to which a worker may be vulnerable to occupational health and safety risks at work.
The tool assesses OHS vulnerability in four areas:
workplace policies and procedures;
worker awareness of hazards and OHS rights and responsibilities; and
worker empowerment to participate in injury and illness prevention.
Using the Measure, a worker is considered most vulnerable to injury and illness when exposed to hazards in the workplace in combination with inadequate workplace policies and procedures, low OHS awareness and/or a workplace that discourages worker participation in injury and illness prevention.
The study is based on the responses of over 1,500 working adults in Ontario and British Columbia who completed the OHS Vulnerability Measure in the spring of 2015. Respondents were also asked if they had missed work or visited a doctor in the past year because of a work-related physical or mental health injury.
The researchers then compared the respondents’ self-reported rates of work-related injury (requiring time off work or medical attention) to their level of vulnerability (as assessed by the OHS Vulnerability Measure).
After taking gender, age, employment relationship, place of birth, occupational group and province into account, researchers found the following:
The most vulnerable workers—those who were exposed to hazards and not protected by adequate policies and procedures, awareness or empowerment—were more likely (up to twice as likely) to report being injured at work than less vulnerable workers who were exposed to hazards and protected by adequate policies and procedures, awareness or empowerment.
The most vulnerable workers were also much more likely (3.5 to 4.5 times more likely) to report being injured at work than the least vulnerable workers—those not exposed to hazards and protected by adequate policies and procedures, awareness or empowerment.
“The study suggests that IWH’s OHS Vulnerability Measure meaningfully assesses workplace hazards and OHS program shortcomings that are associated with the frequency of work injuries and, if addressed, will likely result in fewer work-related injuries and illnesses down the road,” says Morgan Lay, a research associate at IWH and lead author of the study.
For our part, the Workers Health & Safety Centre assists workplace parties through training programs
and information services
to identify and assess work hazards and target prevention at the workplace level. To learn more, contact WHSC and ask to speak with a training services representative.
Download the OHS Vulnerability Measure.