Decline in lost-time claims is linked to drop in hazardous jobs

In brief

  • There was an overall decline in workers' compensation lost-time claim rates in Ontario from 1990 to 2003.
  • Within industrial sectors, decreases in the number of people working in manual jobs may explain part of the decline in lost-time injury claims in Ontario. This is consistent with the idea that technological advancement and globalization have influenced claim rates.
  • These findings suggest that it is important to monitor economic and regulatory policies that encourage investment in safer production processes.

Why was this study done?

Workers' compensation claims have declined in North America and Europe. One explanation is that service sector employment has grown, and there are fewer hazardous jobs. Yet this does not explain the decline in injury rates in high-hazard industries, such as construction or manufacturing. In this study, researchers aimed to identify which factors were related to the decline in lost-time claim rates.

How was the study done?

Using an innovative approach, lost-time claim rates from within industries were derived from data from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the Canadian Labour Force Survey from 1990 to 2003. The factors predicting claim rates — including age, gender, job tenure and physical demands — were analyzed. Other factors such as levels of enforcement were not included.

What did the researchers find?

There was an overall decline in WSIB lost-time claim rates in Ontario from 1990 to 2003. The overall decline across sectors was 51 per cent. Forestry, manufacturing and construction all experienced reductions of greater than 50 per cent. Within sectors, this decline was associated with a decrease in the number of people performing manual jobs. Changes in the workforce composition, based on age, gender or job tenure, were not significantly associated with the drop in claim rates.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the review?

One strength is that researchers looked at claims over a long period of time (13 years). They also reviewed claims within 12 industrial sectors, rather than in the workforce overall. One limitation is the study used claims data, which may have errors in reporting and coding.

Publication Information

Title: 

Association between the decline in workers' compensation claims and workforce composition and job characteristics in Ontario, Canada

Author(s): 

Breslin FC, Tompa E, Mustard C, Zhao R, Smith P, Hogg-Johnson S

Journal: 

American Journal of Public Health, 2007: vol. 97, no. 3, pp. 453-455