The construction sector is in the top five of 17 sectors in terms of spending per worker per year on preventing work-related injury and illness, says the president and senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) who is conducting a pilot study on the matter.
What Do Ontario Employers Spend to Prevent Work-Related Injury and Illness was the subject of a presentation by Dr. Cam Mustard during the recent Partners in Prevention conference at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont.
Although the final numbers are not yet available from the pilot study, Mustard did share some of the findings to date.
"As of Nov. 17, 2016, the average expenditure among 180 Ontario employer respondents in Ontario is that employers on average are spending about $1,900 per worker per year and that expenditure depends on the sector," said Mustard. "The difference between the top spending sector, mining, and the bottom spending sector, educational services, per worker per year is tenfold."
The inspiration for the study was similar research conducted by the International Social Security Association and German Social Accident Insurance. The IWH pilot study is borrowing some of the same methods used in that research.
"Employers in Ontario have a good understanding of what we think of as the direct costs of work-related injury and illness. Employers know this primarily through the premiums they pay to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to insure their workforce in the event of work-related injury and illness," said Mustard.
"But what I think many employers are not as clear about, and we certainly as a research organization don't have information about, is what are employers spending to prevent the causes of work-related injury and illness? Most employers in Ontario will acknowledge that they do invest time, energy, effort and money to prevent causes of work-related injury and illness."
Researchers conducting the pilot were looking to see if employers were both interested and able to work with the IWH to estimate what those investments and expenditures in prevention are in their companies.
"As a pilot study we weren't sure if this information could be provided by employers," explained Mustard. "Well our conclusion is that certainly among the employers who accepted our invitation, they can provide this information."
The target was to speak with 350 firms. Over 300 have participated to date and Mustard indicated the study could wrap up within the next few weeks. The challenge, he said, was organizations that didn't have a centralized health and safety budget. He likened it to buying milk for one's household — it is unlikely that one knows exactly how much milk they buy in a year but they know it's a lot.
For organizations who agreed to participate in the study, it was expected to take about half an hour for the person in the company that is the most knowledgeable about health and safety — in a smaller company that could be the owner whereas in a larger company that could be the health and safety director, Mustard said.
"The participation here in this project, because the time demand was high, has been about 15 per cent. We're OK with this," said Mustard.
Questions were asked pertaining to what does the organization commit to in terms of time and expenditure on staff training in the area of occupational health and safety, personal protective equipment and the health and safety share of the company's capital investment.
The number of hours spent on health and safety training seems to be higher in high hazard sectors, Mustard reported.
"Some organizations sit everybody down for eight hours, other organizations seem to sit 20 per cent of the workforce down for a couple of hours," he noted.
Once the study is concluded, the IWH plans to have conversations with the different sectors to discuss whether or not further study in this area would be useful.
"We'd be very interested if in the construction sector, for example, there was an appetite to look at how doing more work like this might be helpful, but I think our view is we would need to see some indication from some sector that they would like to have more work done like this before we could do more," said Mustard.