Opioid-related harms among Ontario workers: a surveillance tool

Reasons for the study

Canada continues to face an unprecedented opioid crisis that has resulted in profound consequences for many Canadians. Current surveillance systems in Canada, aimed at monitoring opioid use and harms across the population, typically have no or incomplete information on employment-related characteristics. A collaboration between the Institute for Work & Health and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) at Ontario Health aims to fill this gap.

OCRC has developed a unique surveillance program called the Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS). The ODSS was originally designed to detect and monitor risks of work-related disease in Ontario workers. This study aims to adapt the ODSS and establish a surveillance program to monitor opioid-related harms among injured workers and the Ontario workforce more broadly. By updating the ODSS and linking data from recent compensation claimants to health-care data, the ODSS will be able to capture current trends in opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among Ontario workers.

Objectives of the study

  • Adapt and expand the ODSS to examine opioid-related adverse health events
  • Monitor and describe trends of opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among Ontario workers since 2006
  • Identify the demographic, injury and occupational characteristics associated with opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits
  • Compare incident rates of opioid-related harms in the ODSS to those in the general population of Ontario

Target audience

This project will result in a surveillance program aimed at identifying and monitoring opioid-related harms in the Ontario working population. The information will help health-care providers, injured worker advocates, workers' compensation organizations, employers and policy-makers understand whether rates of opioid-related harms are changing over time among particular worker subgroups, which will help inform targeted prevention and harm reduction activities.

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Project status


Project website

Research team

  • Nancy Carnide, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Paul Demers, Occupational Cancer Research Centre (PI)
  • Nathan Debono, Occupational Cancer Research Centre
  • Andrea Furlan, Institute for Work & Health
  • Sara Macdonald, Institute for Work & Health

Collaborators and partners

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
Ontario Building Trades
Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Public Health Ontario
Workplace Safety & Insurance Board

Funded by

Public Health Agency of Canada