Employers wanted for study on OHS spending

Institute's study on employer investment in OHS is first of its kind in Canada

Published: February 7, 2017

How much do Ontario employers spend to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses? A team of researchers at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has set out to answer this question in the first study of its kind in Canada.

Preliminary findings from a sample of 60 organizations suggest that the amount spent ranges widely—from around $400 to nearly $6,500 per worker per year. These estimates take into account the costs related to management and supervision time, staff training, personal protective equipment, external occupational health and safety (OHS) professional services, and the ‘safety’ share of capital investments in facilities, vehicles and equipment.

The research team is now actively seeking other Ontario employers to join the study. The goal is to recruit 350 organizations across different sectors, in proportions representative of the labour force in the province.

It would be helpful to have information on what organizations spend on health and safety to support the dialogue between employers and regulators about protecting workers, says Dr. Cam Mustard, IWH president and senior scientist, and lead researcher on the project.

I also expect this kind of information would be useful if employers want to have conversations within their sectors about what the right level of investment should be.

The study draws on a methodology developed and used by the International Social Security Association (ISSA)—an international grouping of national social security agencies—and German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV)—an umbrella organization of accident insurance institutions for Germany’s industrial and public sectors.

This method asks participating organizations to estimate their investments in five categories:

  • organizational management and supervision—including time spent by the joint health and safety committee and by front-line supervisors and senior management on OHS policies and procedures;
  • staff training in occupational health and safety—including OHS training hours and per-worker training costs for new hires and regular staff;
  • personal protective equipment—for example, hearing protection, gloves, footwear, respirators and emergency response equipment;
  • OHS professional services—for example, the cost of external consulting services; and
  • capital investments related to OHS—for example, the portion of spending on new or renovated facilities, vehicles, equipment and tools that relates to health and safety improvements.

As part of the study, participants will be asked to complete the Organizational Policies and Practices (OPP) questionnaire that was developed as part of IWH’s Ontario Leading Indicator Project. The goal will be to find if there is a link between the level of expenditures and OPP scores.

Later in the project, the research team hopes to also use Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) administrative data to examine the link between firm-level OHS investment and injury claim outcomes.

Recruitment for this study is expected to continue through the spring of 2017. Organizations interested in taking part are asked to contact Morgan Lay, research associate on the project, at: mlay@iwh.on.ca.