Developing a framework for understanding and measuring OHS vulnerability

Reasons for the study

In the area of occupational health and safety (OHS), vulnerability can be defined as an increased risk of experiencing a work-related injury or illness compared to a given standard. Often individuals in the labour market—e.g. young workers, new workers, immigrants or visible minorities—are labelled as vulnerable. Yet, this categorization does not identify the specific characteristics that place these workers at higher risk of experiencing a work-related injury. The purpose of this study is to build on a conceptual framework of OHS vulnerability by generating a set of domains, and pool of potential items within each domain, that can form a feasible measure of OHS vulnerability.

Objectives of the study

  • Develop a measure of OHS vulnerability among labour market participants that moves beyond demographic worker characteristics towards factors that are closer to risk of injury or illness at the level of the workplace.
  • Develop and refine a measure of OHS vulnerability to be used for public health surveillance purposes.

Anticipated results/impact

The development of an OHS vulnerability measure is expected to lead to a greater understanding of the factors that put workers at increased risk of work injury and illness, taking the focus off the characteristic of workers and onto the work they do. The results will be of interest to prevention authorities, workers’ compensation authorities, OHS practitioners and researchers.

Related research summaries

Workers with disabilities report greater OHS vulnerability. Research Highlights: Institute for Work & Health, July 2017.

Related scientific publications

Lay AM, Kosny A, Aery A, Flecker K, Smith PM. The occupational health and safety vulnerability of recent immigrants accessing settlement services. Canadian Journal of Public Health. 2018 [Epub ahead of print]. doi:10.17269/s41997-018-0063-4.
Breslin FC, Lay AM, Jetha A, Smith PM. Examining occupational health and safety vulnerability among Canadian workers with disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2017 [epub ahead of print]. doi:10.1080/09638288.2017.1327985.
Lay AM, Saunders R, Lifshen M, Breslin FC, LaMontagne AD, Tompa E, Smith PM. The relationship between occupational health and safety vulnerability and workplace injury. Safety Science. 2017;94:85. doi: 10.1016/j.ssci.2016.12.021.
Lay AM, Saunders R, Lifshen M, Breslin FC, LaMontagne A, Tompa E, Smith PM. Individual, occupational, and workplace correlates of occupational health and safety vulnerability in a sample of Canadian workers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2016;59(2):119-128. doi:10.1002/ajim.22535.
Smith PM, Saunders R, Lifshen M, Black O, Lay M, Breslin FC, LaMontagne AD, Tompa E. The development of a conceptual model and self-reported measure of occupational health and safety vulnerability. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2015;82:234-243. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2015.06.004.

Related presentations

Developing a measure of OHS vulnerability. IWH Speaker Series. January 20, 2015.

Related interviews and articles

Project status

Completed

Research team

Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
Curtis Breslin, Institute for Work & Health
Morgan Lay, Institute for Work & Health
Marni Lifshen, Institute for Work & Health
Ron Saunders, Institute for Work & Health
Emile Tompa, Institute for Work & Health
Anthony Lamontagne, Deakin University

Participating organizations

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services
Public Services Health & Safety Association

Funded by

Canadian Institutes of Health Research