Scientist-worker alliance to study work injury

Published: August 10, 2006

A unique research alliance of injured workers and scientists has received a prestigious $1 million funding award from a federal research program. The Institute for Work & Health is involved as a partner.

Over the next five years, the Community-University Research Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury will look at the long-term impacts of work injury. We see the effects of injury, such as unemployment and depression, in the large number of workers we help, but we don’t know what the scope of the problem is, says Steve Mantis, the alliance’s community lead, who volunteers at the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers’ Support Group. For some time, injured workers’ groups have been seeking information on the long-term effects of work injury on a broader scale. As part of their research, the alliance will explore how legislation, policies and programs affect injured workers after an injury and over time. The researchers will also study injured workers’ long-term financial security, work situations, health and well-being. Another theme of the alliance is to research the history of injured workers and their role in political activism.

Every year in Ontario, approximately 350,000 workers are injured in the workplace, including 13,000 who experience a permanent impairment, according to data from the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board. The alliance hopes the research results will help develop evidence-informed policy and also increase knowledge about the situation of injured workers. We are including policy-makers in the earliest stages of the project, says Emile Tompa, a Scientist at the Institute and the alliance’s academic lead.

The alliance came together in December 2003 at a meeting of injured workers, researchers and community representatives. The group decided to apply for funding through a federal research program called the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA). Out of more than 100 applications, it became one of 12 projects selected for funding earlier this year. The alliance is also unique because it aims to equip injured workers with the skills to continue their involvement in conducting research, disseminating evidence and influencing policy. The initiative is comprised of nine community organizations and eight university/academic organizations. All participants in the initiative share decision-making, power, resources and opportunities.

CURA is part of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The CURA award was augmented by funds provided by McMaster University, the Institute for Work & Health, the University of Toronto, and in-kind funds from several community organizations and other Ontario universities. The grant is administered through McMaster University.