Ontario, BC show different declines in work injury rates

Published: February 10, 2007

Is the workplace becoming safer? This question heads a recent report that examined workplace injury claim rates in Ontario and British Columbia. The study, which was authored by several researchers at the Institute for Work & Health, was published in Statistics Canada’s journal Perspectives on Labour and Income.

We knew injury rates were declining, and one reason we did this work was to make the provinces comparable, to see whether one province was showing more or less improvement than another, says IWH Scientist Dr. Curtis Breslin, the lead researcher. The researchers examined claims between 1990 and 2001 from Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Board and British Columbia’s WorksafeBC. They used information from Canada’s Labour Force Survey to estimate the total number of workers and calculate injury rates.

In Ontario, between 1990 and 2001, work injury claim rates dropped by 4.6 per cent per year, while there was a three per cent drop per year in B.C. The study also showed that in both provinces, the service-producing sector – which encompassed industries such as transportation, communication, education, and food and beverages – had a lower injury rate than the goods-producing sector, which included agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and construction.

Also noteworthy was the age factor: the study showed that the injury rates were still the highest for workers in the 15 to 24 age category, whereas workers over 50 years of age experienced the lowest rates. What also stood out were the declining rates in both provinces and how they compared, says Breslin. It was interesting to see the changes over time by industry, says Breslin. Generally, we saw that British Columbia starts at a higher rate and shows less of a percentage change than in Ontario. He notes that the “why” behind the differences isn’t examined in this study. One possible explanation that kept coming back to us was that even within an industry, the kinds of work done in B.C. may be different than the work done in Ontario in the same industry, he says. The study also revealed differences in injury rates between men and women. In both provinces, women had fewer reported injuries. The women’s claim rates seem to be dropping faster in Ontario than those in B.C., says Breslin.

In the end, Breslin notes this study moves us closer to the goal of some meaningful comparisons of rates between provinces. This study was a demonstration that you can bring together claims from different provinces and come up with rates with common denominators to see who’s performing better. It can also generate ideas on why the trends differ between provinces, he says. He suggests, An organization such as the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada could take a look at this approach to see whether it could be expanded to start comparing other provinces. That’s one of the main motivations for doing this work.