Message from the president: Listening to stakeholders about research priorities

The following message is from Institute for Work & Health President Dr. Cameron Mustard, commenting on the Institute’s consultation last fall about research priorities.

We at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) place great importance on aligning our research to address the needs of our stakeholder communities. We are always listening to the concerns and challenges of our professional partners.

Last fall, to anchor the Institute’s planning over the next five years, we asked our many professional partners and stakeholders in Ontario to share their views on research priorities and the most prominent challenges they face in their efforts to protect the health of workers.

We sought the views of more than 400 professional leaders in Ontario, drawn from a cross-section of the Institute’s valued stakeholder communities: worker representatives, employer representatives, health and safety professionals, clinicians, disability management professionals, and policy and program staff in the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. We were delighted by the enthusiastic and generous response.

We used a structured, web-based questionnaire to ask each respondent to select 10 priorities from a list of 24 prominent challenges in the prevention of work-related injury and illness, and to select 10 priorities from a list of 20 issues in the prevention, management and compensation of work disability. We also met with more than 60 members of our stakeholder communities for a one-day forum on November 1, 2011. Among the participants at the forum were four members of the Interim Prevention Council at the Ontario Ministry of Labour: Joan Eakin, Vern Edwards, Carmine Tiano and John Macnamara.

What did we hear?

We heard very clearly that our professional colleagues see a great need for research that is focused on helping workplaces improve and strengthen their practices. In the area of primary prevention, our stakeholders gave the highest ranking to research focused on strengthening the internal responsibility system by enhancing worker participation and management commitment. In responding to the consequences of work-related injury and illness, our professional partners gave the highest ranking to research efforts that assist workplaces in strengthening sustainable return-to-work outcomes.

And we heard, without a doubt, that our stakeholder communities want us to continue our research efforts to provide benchmarking measures of current workplace practices in Ontario. They want help in strengthening the understanding of leading indicators of optimal workplace performance both in the prevention of work-related injury and in the accommodation and management of disability.  

Our stakeholders expressed strong interest in more research on effective labour inspection and enforcement practices, as well as more research on the effectiveness of regulatory standards in the workplace accommodation of disability arising from work-related injury and illness.   

And many of our stakeholders expressed concerns that the monitoring and surveillance of physical, chemical and noise exposures in Ontario workplaces are insufficient. Many stakeholders also encouraged more research on the health effects of hours of work, workload and work schedules.

At the day-long forum in November, we asked our professional colleagues to tell us what factors influenced their views about the most prominent research priorities. Four factors were identified as important contributors to making an issue a priority: a large number of workers and workplaces are affected, the economic consequences are large, progress in addressing the challenge seems to be slow, and strong differences of opinion exist on how best to respond to the challenge.

At the forum, participants also reinforced the importance of continuing to integrate knowledge exchange into our research program. Stakeholders said they are interested in being partners in our research and want to engage in an ongoing dialogue about research plans.

The contribution of our valued stakeholder communities to our consultation was terrific. We at the Institute have the good fortune to work closely with talented, professional leadership in Ontario. We heard a clear voicing of research priorities for our work over the years ahead.

Dr. Cameron Mustard
President, Institute for Work & Health

A summary of the results of the IWH stakeholder consultation is available at: www.iwh.on.ca/listening-to-our-stakeholders

Source: At Work, Issue 67, Winter 2012: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto