Work-related injury rates on the decline in Ontario, non-work injury rates not changing
Work-related injury rates in Ontario fell by 30 per cent from 2004 to 2011—in sharp contrast to non-work injury rates, which did not change.
According to a study by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), the overall decline in total injuries during this eight-year period can be almost entirely attributed to a decline in occupational injuries.
If injuries due to leisure, recreation or other non-work activities had fallen at the same rate as work-related injuries, there would have been 200,000 fewer injuries in the province in 2011, says Dr. Cameron Mustard, one of the study’s authors. The study was published online today in the American Journal of Public Health.
“This study shows injuries—a substantial cause of death and disability in Canada—are absolutely preventable,” says Mustard, president and senior scientist at IWH. “A decline of 30 per cent in work-related injuries in just eight years is evidence that prevention efforts can have an impact.”
Injury is the leading cause of death among Canadians under the age of 45. Across all ages, injury is responsible for 10 per cent of the economic burden of illness in Canada—a burden roughly equivalent to that of cancer or cardiovascular disease.
To chart injury trends over the eight years, the authors drew on two sets of data. One was the record of all emergency department visits, which Ontario hospitals have been required to report since 2000. The other was a series of health interview surveys that Statistics Canada has conducted since 1997 among a representative sample of working-age adults.
For a few types of injuries, the researchers found parallel declines in both work-related and non-work injuries. These included injuries due to motor vehicle collisions, natural or environmental causes, and intentional self-harm. However, for many other injury categories, the researchers found either no reduction in non-work injuries, or reductions that were substantially smaller than those achieved at work.
One possible reason for the diverging trends between work-related and non-work-related injuries is the level of investment in injury prevention, suggests Mustard.
“Some estimates suggest that employers may spend as much as a thousand dollars per worker per year to prevent work-related injury and illness among their employees,” says Mustard. “As a society, we invest perhaps a tenth of this amount in protecting children, adults and seniors from the causes of injury in non-work settings. This low level of investment should concern us.”
The study, “Diverging trends in the incidence of occupational and non-occupational injury in Ontario 2004-2011,” will be published in the February 2015 edition of the American Journal of Public Health (doi 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302223).
IWH is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that aims to protect and improve the health of working people. Recognized as one of the top five occupational health and safety research centres in the world, the Institute provides practical and relevant findings on the prevention of work injury and disability to policy-makers, workers, employers, clinicians, and health, safety and disability management professionals: www.iwh.on.ca