Thursday, March 17, 2022

More data on underreporting of workplace injuries in Ontario

The Institute for Work and Health has released results of a new study that matches emergency room visit records with workers' compensation data. In theory, all work-related injuries requiring medical treatment should be reported to Ontario's WSIB to avoid employers transferring the cost of treating workplace injuries onto the public health-care system.

The study finds that 35% to 40% of ER visits for workplace injuries were not reported to the WSIB from 2004 to 2017. This is broadly consistent with other data on under-reporting, which finds 40% to 60% of work-related injuries are not reported. 

Of the cases reported by health care professionals, 15% are not followed by workers (who should file a worker report). Further, there was a big drop in reporting beginning in 2008.

This study further demonstrates that workers' compensation injury data underreports the true level of workplace injury, even in the case of serious injuries. This raises questions about the utility of this data to assess and guide injury-prevention work. It also suggests significant cost-shifting around injury from employers to other groups (e.g., taxpayers, workers, private health benefit providers). 

Finally, this study suggests a useful way to begin correcting for under-reporting. For example, workers' compensation board could begin more aggressively following up on medical reports that do not generate worker reports to ensure these injuries are captured.

-- Bob Barnetson

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