Manitoba launches safety initiative for immigrants

While anecdotes often point to emerging problems, statistics can help confirm the extent of a problem, and give extra purpose and support to the solutions.

Such was the case with the Manitoba Immigrant Worker Safety Initiative (MISI), which drew from Institute for Work & Health (IWH) research on immigrant workers. The initiative, which launched in 2009, offered a variety of free, downloadable resources for immigrant workers, employers and others to help prevent injury and illness.

At the time, Manitoba noted that it had a high number of immigrants each year relative to its population. At the International Centre of Winnipeg, staff members at its language bank were noticing a growing number of requests to help translate workers’ compensation forms, said Richard Nordrum, project manager of the initiative.

Mike Waite, president and CEO of Safety Services Manitoba, together with the International Centre applied and received two years of funding from Manitoba’s Workers Compensation Board (WCB). The initiative’s first phase was to research the extent of the problem and investigate safety training programs for immigrants.

What we struggled with was that we had lots of anecdotal information, but we couldn’t find any scientific, Canadian information, Nordrum says. Even the WCB did not have stats on immigrant workers.

Research confirms anecdotal information

It was timely, then, that in the summer of 2008, IWH published studies comparing immigrants’ working conditions and injury rates with those of Canadian-born workers. One pertinent finding of the research, led by IWH Scientist Dr. Peter Smith, is that immigrant men are twice as likely to seek medical care for work-related injuries than Canadian-born men.

It really supported the need for this kind of programming and initiative, says Nordrum. The studies also enabled us to increase the level of awareness about our program.

The resources developed by MISI include fact sheets in eight languages, and four manuals about safety and cultural issues that could affect safety. Two manuals are for workers, at two different levels of English proficiency, while two are targeted at employers, OHS professionals and others involved with immigrant workers.

Publication date: 

September 2009

Type of impact: 

Type 2: Evidence of research informing decision-making