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New study aims to get insight into OHS culture in Ontario organizations

By COS staff
| www.cos-mag.com

One of the largest workplace prevention studies ever undertaken in Ontario is underway. Four health and safety associations (HSAs) have joined forces with research firm Institute for Work & Health (IWH) to recruit 5,000 organizations to participate.

The "5,000 Firm Study," as it’s informally known, is focused on understanding how organizations’ health, safety and disability policies and practices are related to injuries and illness. The scope is huge, including every major sector in Ontario. More than 5,000 firms will be randomly selected from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s database. Public service agencies from the municipal, health care and education sectors will be contacted by PSHSA and invited to participate in the coming months.

“This is a groundbreaking project, which could potentially have huge implications for Ontario’s prevention system, and beyond,” says Dr. Ben Amick, IWH’s scientific director and the project lead. “A project of this magnitude is only possible with the strong commitment to safety and support for research across Ontario’s prevention system.”

After agreeing to participate, organizations will be asked to fill out a web-based questionnaire, with questions about their safety culture, occupational health and safety management systems, joint health and safety committees, and organizational policies and practices. This survey will help to identify "leading organizational indicators." A leading indicator provides a sense of an organization’s ongoing health and safety initiatives, and the potential for injuries or illnesses before they occur.

Each firm’s responses about its management or organizational safety measures will be linked to its claim rate records — with all information being maintained in strict confidence by IWH. By making this linkage, the researchers will be able to see if there are relationships between specific measures, and injury or illness claims.

At the end, the goal is to have a set of the most accurate leading indicators that all workplaces can use to assess their safety performance. This tool provides another opportunity to reduce injury and illness using practices that are based on evidence.

Each participating organization will receive a report showing how it compares with other organizations in its sector. Collectively, the information will create a huge knowledge base for Ontario, which can be used as a benchmark by any organization.

The study is open for organizations to participate until May 2012. To learn more about the study, and how your organization can participate, send your name, organization, phone number and email to Colette Severin, IWH’s project coordinator, at cseverin@iwh.on.ca or 416-927-2027, ext. 2126.

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