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, said Cameron Mustard, one of the study’s authors.
“This study shows injuries — a substantial cause of death and disability in Canada — are absolutely preventable,” said 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.
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, suggested 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,” said Mustard. “As a society, we invest perhaps a 10th 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.”
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