IWH Organizational Performance Metric: Developing and evaluating a simple workplace OHS tool

Reasons for the study

Health and safety leading indicators are organizational and management measures that can be used by workplaces and system partners to improve health and safety performance before injuries and illnesses occur. Working with system partners, the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) set out to develop, pilot and evaluate a simple leading-indicators questionnaire that can be used to assess and improve an organization’s occupational health and safety performance.

Objectives of the study

  • Develop, pilot and evaluate a questionnaire that assesses health and safety policies and practices that correlate with workplace injury experience
  • Create and share sector-based benchmarks based on questionnaire (IWH-OPM) scores, and assess their relationship to injury and illness data
  • Assess the relationship between IWH-OPM scores and workplace practices and policies


In 2008, a team of partners within Ontario’s occupational health and safety system set out to answer this question: Can a simple tool be developed that will predict a firm’s workplace injury experience based on an assessment of its health and safety policies and practices?

The team developed an eight-item questionnaire now called the Institute for Work & Health Organization Performance Metric (IWH-OPM) that was administered in 2009 to over 600 workplaces. One respondent in each workplace was asked to assess the degree to which their organization adhered to optimal occupational health and safety policies and practices.

Respondents’ answers were scored and matched to their organization’s injury rates over the previous three-plus years. Workplaces where respondents reported higher scores had lower injury claim rates.

This was an important step in the development of a “leading indicator” measurement tool that could be of benefit to occupational health and safety stakeholders in Ontario and beyond.

  • Project summary: Prevention team develops tool to measure leading indicators
  • Full report: Benchmarking organizational leading indicators for the prevention and management of injuries and illnesses

In 2012/2013, 325 organizations across Ontario who participated in Phase 1 of the project agreed to take the survey again. These organizations spanned nine different sectors, including: forestry, education, municipalities, health care, agriculture, manufacturing, service, construction and electrical.

Five Ontario health and safety associations—Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA), Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA), Workplace Safety North (WSN) and Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)—helped with recruiting and administering the survey.

Organizations of all sizes (small: <20 employees, medium: 20-99 employees, and large: > 99) completed the questionnaire to help ensure the IWH-OPM is applicable to a variety of workplaces.

Each organization’s score was tallied and benchmarked against organizations in its sector that also completed the 2012/2013 survey. This allowed organizations to compare their scores to other similar organizations. In addition, IWH compared each organization’s 2012/2013 score with its 2009 score. This allowed organizations to see how their organizational health and safety practices have changed over the past four years.

Using the original 2009 questionnaire, the 2009 scores were compared with subsequent Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims. The evidence suggested that the IWH-OPM was predictive of future claims in this sample of participating organizations. Among the organizations that participated in 2009, their IWH-OPM scores were linked to their likelihood of experiencing injury and illness claims over the next three years (2010-2012). 

That is, a higher IWH-OPM score meant a lower risk of claims in the future, whereas a low IWH-OPM score meant a higher risk of claims in the future. This observed relationship occurred even after taking into account the organization’s size, industrial sector, region of Ontario and workers' compensation claims history from 2006-2009.

In 2014, researchers conducted worksite visits to answer the question: How do firms with low IWH-OPM scores differ from those with high IWH-OPM scores?

Researchers conducted interviews in five workplaces with employees from different levels of the organization, such as OHS specialist, a worker who is not a member of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC), maintenance manager, human resources manager, senior manager, middle manager and operations supervisor.

Researchers also observed the work environment and interactions among people and went on a guided tour of each workplace. The tour, led by a key contact, highlighted occupational health and safety (OHS) practices like housekeeping, signage, guarding, etc.

Finally, researchers reviewed documents related to workplace health and safety including JHSC minutes, OHS policies and procedures, and OHS plans and reviews.

Consultants from Ontario’s health and safety associations (HSAs) also assessed the OHS programs in the participating workplaces. This has allowed researchers to compare their findings with the findings generated by the assessment tools regularly used by Ontario’s prevention system, and also to the IWH-OPM scores reported by the workplaces.

Target audience

Health and safety policy-makers, health and safety associations and workplace parties (employers and worker representatives) will have a simple way to assess OHS performance and practice in order to make improvements before injuries and illnesses occur.

Related scientific publications

Related interviews and articles

IWH Speaker Series presentations

Project status

Completed 2018

Research team

  • Ben Amick, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Lynda Robson, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Institute for Work & Health
  • Peter Smith, Institute for Work & Health
  • Michael Swift, Institute for Work & Health
  • Sabrina Tonima, Institute for Work & Health
  • Karen Turner, Institute for Work & Health
  • Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
  • Basak Yanar, Institute for Work & Health

Collaborators and partners

  • Infrastructure Health and Safety Association 
  • Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
  • Ontario Ministry of Labour
  • Public Services Health and Safety Association
  • Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
  • Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
  • Workplace Safety North

Funded by

Workplace Safety & Insurance Board, Ontario Ministry of Labour