Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jurisdictional issues responsible for higher injury rates in western provinces?

The Ontario-based Institute for Work & Health has just released a research summary on a project examining provincial differences in injury rates. Workers in western provinces typically have a 30-50% higher risk of injury than workers in Ontario. The reason why has been unclear but often worker and industry characteristics and mooted as the cause.

The IWH summary (the research is presently under peer review) indicates some individual-level factors increase the risk of injury: being male, being under 55 (and especially between 25 to 34) years of age, not completing post-secondary degree, being Canadian-born as opposed to an immigrant, working full-time, reporting medium or high job stress levels, and working in agriculture/forestry/mining/utilities, construction or manufacturing.

An area’s socioeconomic status (household income, education levels, etc.) was slightly associated with risk of work injury, but an area’s labour market status (unemployment rate, percentage of permanent jobs, etc.) and workplace characteristics (size of firms, degree of unionization) were not.

Finally, provincial differences in work risk were found, even after taking individual and area-level factors into account, including industry mix. Workers in the western provinces were shown to be at higher risk of work injury compared to those in Ontario. Specifically, Saskatchewan showed 27 per cent higher risk compared with Ontario; Alberta, 28 per cent; and British Columbia, 49 per cent.

The key point is that provincial differences in work injury risk persisted after taking into consideration individual characteristics and industry of employment. This finding of unexplained differences in provincial work injury risk suggests factors affecting work injury are operating at a jurisdictional level, such as a jurisdiction's economic or health and safety policies.

-- Bob Barnetson

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