Vulnerability at work

“Vulnerable” is a word often used in the health and safety world to describe those who are at an increased risk of work injury or disease. But who is vulnerable, and why. Understanding “vulnerability” due to personal, workplace and labour market factors remains a key research theme of the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). This research looks at rates of vulnerability and measures to identify, assess and prevent it. It also looks at workplace, system and government programs and policies to address vulnerability.

Latest news and findings


Study: Newcomers often lack OHS protection and information in their precarious first jobs

Four themes emerged in an Institute for Work & Health study on the labour market experiences of newcomers to Canada: they have great difficulty finding work; their first jobs are often precarious; they rely heavily on community networks; and their knowledge of workplace health and safety is limited. The researchers suggest more settlement agencies offer OHS information as a regular part of their language training and employment preparation services, as some already do.

Read about the study in At Work

IWH Speaker Series—March 27: Differences in risk of workplace violence for women and men

Workplace violence is getting increasing attention, especially in sectors such as health care and education. On March 27, IWH Speaker Series presents Institute for Work & Health Senior Scientist Dr. Peter Smith, who will talk about two of his recent studies on differences in the risk of workplace violence for men and women. One examined the contribution of work-related factors to the risk of different types of violence, and the other examined risks in different Ontario industries.

Register to attend in person or via live stream

Join us May 8-9 at Work, Migration & Health Forum

On May 8 and 9, 2018, join researchers, advocates and policy-makers in Toronto at the Work, Health and Migration Forum. The event, hosted by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is examining the labour experiences of temporary foreign workers, new immigrants, refugees, working international students and undocumented migrants. IWH and Wellesley Institute are sponsoring the event.

Go to the forum website

People with disabilities face greater OHS vulnerability, according to IWH study

People with disabilities have a tough time getting hired, research elsewhere has shown. Now, a new IWH study suggests that, when they do find jobs, they may be more vulnerable to workplace health and safety risks than their peers without disabilities. The study used an occupational health and safety (OHS) vulnerability framework developed at IWH. It found low OHS empowerment and inadequate OHS practices and policies were more prevalent among study participants with disabilities than those without.

Read about the study

How IWH researchers addressed essential skills gaps in an OHS training program

Can an OHS training program be improved by modifying it to address gaps in essential skills? In a new study, a research team at IWH pilot-tested a modified version of a hoisting and rigging training program offered by the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 506. The changes were made to address trainees’ skills gaps in numeracy and document use that were related to the job. Last November, the team presented its findings, and that presentation is now available as a slidecast. Good news: it turns out the trainees in the program modified to address essential skills did better.

Watch the slidecast