Variation in occupational exposure risk for COVID-19 workers' compensation claims across pandemic waves in Ontario

Publication type
Journal article
Smith PM, Liao Q, Shahidi FV, Biswas A, Robson LS, Landsman V, Mustard C
Date published
2024 Feb 01
Occupational & Environmental Medicine
Open Access?

OBJECTIVES: To understand rates of work-related COVID-19 (WR-C19) infection by occupational exposures across waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada. METHODS: We combined workers' compensation claims for COVID-19 with data from Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, to estimate rates of WR-C19 among workers spending the majority of their working time at the workplace between 1 April 2020 and 30 April 2022. Occupational exposures, imputed using a job exposure matrix, were whether the occupation was public facing, proximity to others at work, location of work and a summary measure of low, medium and high occupational exposure. Negative binomial regression models examined the relationship between occupational exposures and risk of WR-C19, adjusting for covariates. RESULTS: Trends in rates of WR-C19 differed from overall COVID-19 cases among the working-aged population. All occupational exposures were associated with increased risk of WR-C19, with risk ratios for medium and high summary exposures being 1.30 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.55) and 2.46 (95% CI 2.10 to 2.88), respectively, in fully adjusted models. The magnitude of associations between occupational exposures and risk of WR-C19 differed across waves of the pandemic, being weakest for most exposures in period March 2021 to June 2021, and highest at the start of the pandemic and during the Omicron wave (December 2021 to April 2022). CONCLUSIONS: Occupational exposures were consistently associated with increased risk of WR-C19, although the magnitude of this relationship differed across pandemic waves in Ontario. Preparation for future pandemics should consider more accurate reporting of WR-C19 infections and the potential dynamic nature of occupational exposures