In 2009, injury rates for young workers in the service sector in some regions of Ontario were as high as 12 injuries for each 100 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs). In other regions, however, the rate was much less than one per 100 FTEs.
A map of these findings triggered the province’s service sector health and safety association (HSA) to take action. The findings were based on research by Institute for Work & Health (IWH) Scientist Dr. Curtis Breslin, who estimated service-sector work injury rates for 15- to 24-year-olds in 46 regions across Ontario.
Sandra Miller, from a health and safety association (HSA) known as the Ontario Safety Service Alliance (OSSA), picked up on the practical implications of Breslin’s work after hearing about it at a meeting of the HSA Liaison Committee — a research exchange forum for HSAs hosted by IWH and including the Centres of Research Expertise. Then OSSA held a workshop, in which Breslin presented the findings to field consultants. Since then, the research tied into OSSA’s work in a number of ways.
It provoked our field consultants to think about what was going on, especially when they saw big differences in regions that were side-by-side, says Miller, OSSA’s acting vice-president of corporate services and executive director of innovation.
They knew the firms in these areas, and it helped begin a conversation with them.
Research helps HSA consultants understand regional risks
Trudi Farquhar, OSSA’s regional manager of client services for North Eastern Ontario, concurs.
I found this type of analysis to be most helpful because it helped me to better understand my region and its related risks, says Farquhar, whose team deals directly with 800 to 1,000 firms each year.
We discussed this in our regional team meetings, and tried to understand where there may be opportunities to focus efforts to better understand injury rates.
She also presented the findings to Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board staff in Thunder Bay.
We had a robust discussion about the research, and brainstormed some ideas and tried to understand some rationale that would make that area of the province generally more at risk than others, she says.
Our intent was to bring more awareness to customers in that region, to open them up to greater prevention opportunities.
One of the goals of this research was to identify regions with higher rates, to help target service delivery. This is, in a way, what OSSA did. At the time the research was released, OSSA was redesigning its service delivery model and was able to use this knowledge in its decision-making.
Miller points out that the opportunity to hear about research first-hand through IWH’s regular meetings is invaluable, particularly when there are plans to put findings into practical use.
We can build relationships directly with the researchers and ask them, ‘We’re going to apply the information this way. Are we interpreting it appropriately?’ she explains.