Research study will allow Ontario construction firms to benchmark workplace safety

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Construction firms in Ontario’s industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector may soon be able to benchmark their workplace health and safety policies and practices with each other, if the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has its way.

IWH, a Toronto-based  not-for-profit research organization, is currently conducting research into the policies and practices of construction firms in the province’s ICI sector. The research involves contacting a random sample of both large and small firms from the sector, and asking the person knowledgeable about the firm’s occupational health and safety and disability management programs to take a 10-minute survey.

“The survey responses will help us to build a benchmarking database for the sector,” says IWH senior scientist Ben Amick, who is co-leading the project with Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, also a senior scientist at IWH. “So if your firm is contacted, we urge you to agree to take part in the survey to help advance the protection of construction workers in Ontario.”

Between 2003 and 2012, the construction sector accounted for 27 per cent of all work-related deaths in Ontario, more than any other sector. In 2012, the construction sector accounted for 10 per cent of all allowed lost-time claims in the province, while representing only seven per cent of the working population covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). As well, in 2011 and 2012, the construction sector was among the top three industries with the highest number of days lost to work injuries.

Effective firm-level occupational health and safety (OHS) policies and practices can play a key role in reducing deaths, injuries and lost days among constructions workers, says Hogg-Johnson. But what are the workplace policies and practices that actually work to protect construction workers? That is what the IWH study aims find out.

The researchers hope to gather data from at least 600 construction firms in Ontario’s ICI sector. The person at the firm knowledgeable about OHS—whether it’s an onsite OHS professional, an employer or worker co-chair of the joint health and safety committee, a human resources practitioner, a general manager or owner, or other—will be asked to complete a survey (either online or over the phone) that asks about the firm’s health, safety and disability management policies and practices.

At the end of the study, participants will receive a report benchmarking their firm’s OHS policies and practices with other participating construction firms in the province. The report can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses in a firm’s OHS program, potentially pointing to areas of improvement that, if addressed, may reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.

IWH will be conducting the surveys until the end of March.

For more information on the study, visit: http://www.iwh.on.ca/ohs-practices-and-policies-ontario-construction-sector

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