OHS Vulnerability Measure

Published: January 2016

The OHS Vulnerability Measure, developed at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), measures the extent to which a worker may be vulnerable to occupational health and safety (OHS) risks at work. IWH research has shown that vulnerability, as measured by this tool, is associated with elevated rates of self-reported work injury and illness.

The tool assesses OHS vulnerability in four areas: hazard exposure; workplace policies and procedures; worker awareness of hazards and OHS rights and responsibilities; and worker empowerment to participate in injury and illness prevention. Using the measure, a worker is considered most vulnerable to injury and illness when exposed to hazards in the workplace in combination with inadequate workplace policies and procedures, low OHS awareness and/or a workplace culture that discourages worker participation in injury and illness prevention.

Who should use the measure

Workplace parties including employers, managers, joint health and safety committee members, health and safety representatives  and workplace union representatives can use the OHS Vulnerability measure to assess worker vulnerability at any given time. By asking workers throughout the organization or in a particular department to fill out the survey, they can identify and areas of potential vulnerability to help prevent future injuries and illnesses.

Workplace parties can also readminister the survey at a later date to assess if worker vulnerability has changed over time. They can also administer the questionnaire before and after the introduction of a prevention program or intervention to assess whether the initiative had an effect on decreasing worker vulnerability.

Regulators responsible for workplace health and safety can use the OHS Vulnerability Measure on a broader level to identify vulnerable sectors and assess the effectiveness of interventions jurisdiction-wide.

A number of items related to the measure are available for download:

  • a guide to using the OHS Vulnerability Measure, which also includes the questionnaire (available in English only);
  • the questionnaire only for distribution to workers, in English; and
  • the questionnaire only for distribution to workers, in French.