Areas of systems focus – building relationships to have a bigger impact
The objectives and intended outcomes of Prevention Works represent foundational OHS issues that need to be addressed broadly. Based on our consultations, research findings, and our experiences with COVID-19, Prevention Works also includes two areas of systems focus, which will involve stakeholders from within and outside of the OHS system (for example, other provincial ministries). We expect that through these areas of systems focus – occupational illnesses, work-related mental health and workplace violence and harassment – the OHS system will achieve the biggest impact in reducing or eliminating exposure to the hazards that pose the greatest risk.
The OHS system will focus on preventing occupational illnesses,
Occupational illnesses may also occur more acutely and suddenly, including those caused by exposure to infectious diseases (for example, COVID-19). The OHS system will support workplaces to be healthy and safe during and after COVID-19 and will help workplaces prepare for other types of outbreaks. In addition, the OHS system will review how such events can disproportionately impact particular workers (for example, temporary foreign agricultural workers) and workplaces to inform targeted occupational illness prevention activities now and in the future.
Research shows that a multi-faceted, system-level approach is needed to reduce burden of occupational illness.
To enhance our approach on the prevention of occupational illnesses, over the next five years we will continue to build on the successful approaches in the ODAP to move from evidence to action, strengthen our existing partnerships and expand our partnerships with public health and the health care system partners to support collaborative, multi-disciplinary, evidence-informed approaches and activities across the OHS system and broader health systems.
Work-related mental health and workplace violence and harassment
System partners such as the WSIB and the HSAs are doing important work in these areas. For example, the WSIB provides compensation and a range of services (including re-employment, health care, and return to work) for work-related mental injuries, such as chronic stress and traumatic mental stress. The HSAs provide important training and resources on work-related mental health and on the development of workplace violence and harassment policies and programs.
Over the next five years, the OHS system will continue to focus on providing work-related mental health information and resources through the HSAs and preventing workplace violence and harassment (especially in education and healthcare sectors). During our province-wide consultations the ministry heard that work-related mental health is a serious issue in Ontario’s workplaces. Participants identified issues such as lack of clarity around work-related mental health, violence and burnout for nurses and health care professionals, employer obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act regarding workplace violence and harassment, and increased support for addressing impairment (which may pose a physical hazard) in the workplace.
The ministry’s benchmark public opinion survey also found that among those who sought information about workplace health and safety, the most sought-after type of information was about harassment (33%), particularly among women. Information on dangerous substances (32%) and mental health (29%) was also highly sought-after. Aligned with the recommendations of the researchers who led the survey, the OHS system will work to ensure that information and resources about workplace harassment, violence and work-related mental health are effectively communicated and made available to workers.
In addition, one of the top OHS issues observed in Ontario’s workplaces in 2018 was workplace violence and harassment across all sectors.
COVID-19 brought a heightened focus to the importance of work-related mental health, and OHS system partners (such as the HSAs and the WSIB) will work to address the unique challenges to workplaces resulting from COVID-19 within the parameters of their respective mandates.
- footnote Back to paragraph As defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, “occupational illness” includes an occupational disease for which a worker is entitled to benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
- footnote Back to paragraph By the Numbers 2019 WSIB statistical report
- footnote Back to paragraph Demers, et.al Options for Tracking Occupational Disease and Exposure in Ontario. Occupational Cancer Research Centre, Ontario, 2019.
- footnote Back to paragraph Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario
- footnote Back to paragraph Keefe, et.al. Preventing Occupational Disease: Designing a System that Works, March 2017
- footnote Back to paragraph Dr. Paul Demers, Using scientific evidence and principles to help determine the work-relatedness of cancer | Ontario.ca.
- footnote Back to paragraph Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario (April 2018 - March 2019)
- footnote Back to paragraph Gender differences in injuries attributed to workplace violence in Ontario 2002–2015