Immigrant workers and workplace health and safety

Immigrant workers are expected to account for almost all net labour force growth in Canada as of 2011. Understanding the work experiences of recent immigrants (newcomers) to Canada will help ensure their smooth integration into Canadian society.

Researchers at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) have conducted a number of important studies on recent immigrants, particularly in the area of workplace injuries, illness and compensation. These studies have resulted in important findings, as well as the development of tools and resources to help prevent workplace injuries and disabilities among newcomers. These are listed here.

Why study immigrant workers?

  • This backgrounder explains the workplace challenges facing immigrant workers.

Experiences of newcomers injured on the job

An IWH study explores the experiences of new immigrants after they were injured on the job, including their knowledge of their rights, encounters with employers and health-care providers, and experiences with injury reporting and claim filing.

National scan of occupational health and safety and workers' compensation resources for newcomers

The IWH study above on the experiences of injured immigrant workers revealed that the resources available in Canada to meet newcomers' information needs on the topics of employment standards, occupational health and safety and workers' compensation had not been docuemnted. To fill this gap, IWH undertook a national scan of these resources for newcomers.

Toolkit for teaching occupational health and safety and workers' compensation to newcomers

In conjunction with a community advisory committee, IWH developed a toolkit called Prevention is the Best Medicine to teach newcomers to Ontario about their occupational health and safety and workers' compensation rights and responsibilities. The toolkit is made up of 11 modules, including faciliators' guides, presentation slides and handouts for students, which are designed to be delivered to recent immigrants who are preparing to enter the labour force.

The toolkit was then adapted by Manitoba's Workers Compensation Board and Safe Work Manitoba for newcomers to that province.

IWH also teamed up with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services—an Ontario health and safety association serving the manufacturing, services and agricultural sectors—to develop and evaluate visual symbols known as "pictograms" as a safeguard for workers at risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These "pictograms," along with training, can help communicate workplace hazards and controls to worker with low literacy skills or for whom English (or the language of the workplace) is a second language. Pictograms are available for three sectors: retail, restaurant and greenhouses.

Work issues of newcomers to Canada

In order to explore the work issues of newcomers at a national level, IWH held a forum on immigration, work and health in Vancouver, B.C., in 2009.

Over-qualification and the health of recent immigrants

The effect of job over-qualification on the health of recent immigrants, including both their general health and mental health, has been examined in a number of studies involving IWH scientists.

Work experiences of newcomers compared to Canadian-born workers

IWH researchers have conducted a number of studies on the differing work experiences of recent immigrants compared to Canadian-born workers.