29 questions to measure vulnerability

New IWH tool to measure risk of injury probes four dimensions

Institute for Work & Health Scientist Dr. Peter Smith has developed a tool to measure the extent to which workers are vulnerable to occupational health and safety (OHS) risks. The tool frames OHS vulnerability along four dimensions:

  • level of hazards faced by the worker;
  • workplace- or organization-level protection and policies;
  • worker awareness of occupational hazards and rights and responsibilities; and
  • worker empowerment to participate in injury prevention.

In this framework, the research team defines OHS vulnerability as arising when workers are exposed to hazards in combination with inadequate workplace policies and procedures, and/or low OHS awareness and/or a workplace culture that discourages workers participation in injury prevention.

The measure is composed of 29 questions covering the four dimensions. The questions are:

Workplace hazards

How often do you ....

  1. Have to manually lift, carry or push items heavier than 20 kg at least 10 times during the day?
  2. Have to do repetitive movements with your hands or wrists for at least three hours during the day?
  3. Have to perform work tasks, or use work methods, that you are not familiar with?
  4. Interact with hazardous substances such as chemicals, flammable liquids and gases?
  5. Have to work in a bent, twisted or awkward work posture?
  6. Experience pain or discomfort as a result of your job?
  7. Work at a height that is two metres or more above the ground or floor?
  8. Work in noise levels that are so high that you have to raise your voice when talking to people less than one metre away?
  9. Face being bullied or harassed at work?
  10. Have to stand for more than two hours in a row?
  11. Come to work feeling fatigued?

Response options are: Never, once a year, every six months, every three months, every month, every week or every day.

Policies and procedures

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the statement: At my workplace ....

  1. Everyone receives the necessary workplace health and safety training when starting a job, changing jobs or using new techniques.
  2. There is regular communication between employees and management about safety issues.
  3. Systems are in place to identify, prevent and deal with hazards at work.
  4. Workplace health and safety is considered to be at least as important as production and quality.
  5. There is an active and effective health and safety committee, and /or worker health and safety rep.
  6. Incidents and accidents are investigated quickly in order to improve workplace health and safety.
  7. Communication about workplace health and safety procedures is done in a way that I can understand.

Worker awareness

How strongly do do you agree or disagree with the statement: At my workplace ....

  1. I am clear about my rights and responsibilities in relation to workplace health and safety.
  2. I am clear about my employer's rights and responsibilities in relation to workplace health and safety.
  3. I know how to perform my job in a safe manner.
  4. If I became aware of a health or safety hazard at my workplace, I know who (at my workplace) I would report it to.
  5. I have the knowledge to assist in responding to any health and safety concerns.
  6. I know what the necessary precautions are that I should take while doing my job.


How strongly do do you agree or disagree with the statement: At my workplace ....

  1. I feel free to voice concerns or make suggestions about workplace health and safety at my job.
  2. If I notice a workplace hazard, I would point it out to management.
  3. I know that I can stop work if I think something is unsafe and management will not give me a hard time.
  4. If my work environment was unsafe, I would not say anything and hope that the situation eventually improves (reverse scored).
  5. I have enough time to complete my work tasks safely.

Source: At Work, Issue 80, Spring 2015: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto

Note: Smith's study on the development of the questionnaire has been published in the September 2015 edition of the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention (Vol. 82, pp. 234-243: doi:10.1016/j.aap.2015.06.004). The open-access paper is available to all to read, and offers a link to a short slidecast summarizing his work on the development of the measure.

See also: