Safe Work Manitoba has introduced a five-year Occupational Disease and Illness Prevention Strategy to address some of the most severe health conditions a worker can experience.
From 2000-2015, more than 200 Manitobans lost their lives to cancer, lung diseases and other illnesses because they were exposed to harmful substances in their workplaces. Most of these deaths were linked to asbestos exposure or exposure to other toxic gases, fumes and dusts that occurred many years ago and developed into diseases later in the workers' lives. Still more workers cope with serious, work-related health conditions that in some cases will last the rest of their lives, including respiratory issues, skin disorders and noise-induced hearing loss, said Safe Work Manitoba.
"A stronger, healthier Manitoba is our goal, and improved disease and illness prevention in our workplaces is part of that vision," said Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade Blaine Pedersen. "In carrying out the Occupational Disease and Illness Prevention Strategy, Safe Work Manitoba will work closely with employers, workers and other safety professionals to pinpoint where exposure risks exist and identify targeted, industry-specific approaches to disease and illness prevention."
The strategy deals with one challenge in particular: a lack of comprehensive data that shows how often workers are being exposed to harmful substances in the workplace. The strategy's tactics will help fill some of these gaps in information by monitoring exposure levels across a number of different workplaces and industries over an extended period of time, allowing Safe Work Manitoba, employers and other safety professionals to better identify and address exposure risks, and evaluate safety measures that are already in use. Using the results of the monitoring to improve illness prevention will make workplaces safer now and will help to prevent future illnesses.
"This monitoring is unique in that it will give us a more complete picture of high-risk substances in Manitoba workplaces, taking into account different working conditions that can affect how much a worker is exposed," said Jamie Hall, COO for Safe Work Manitoba. "This will also give employers and workers relevant information to make practical improvements in the workplace."
The strategy's tactics also aim to increase public awareness about occupational disease and illness and how they can be prevented, and strengthen partnerships with other organizations with disease and illness prevention mandates.