Trends in the severity of work-related injury in Ontario

Reasons for the study

An accurate picture of the number and types of workplace injuries and illnesses is critical to an effective occupational health and safety (OHS) system. Yet the use of workers’ compensation administrative data as the only source of information on the incidence of work injuries and illness has its shortcomings.

Previous research by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) suggests another source of information is also available in Ontario: emergency department records. These records can be used to track the performance of the OHS system and to assess the reliability of workers’ compensation data on acute injuries.

The project builds on these findings. It is developing a methodology to classify the severity of work-related injuries and illnesses presenting to hospital emergency departments in Ontario over the period 2004 to 2021. Analyses of changes in the incidence of severe injury over time will inform understanding of effective OHS prevention efforts over the past decade and will identify severe injury hazards for priority attention over the period 2021-2026.

Objectives of the study

  • Acquire emergency department records for the period 2018-2021 to supplement records for the period 2004-2017 currently held by the Institute
  • Complete classification of injury severity for 2,000,000 emergency department records for the treatment of work-related injury and illness
  • Analyze trends over time in the incidence of severe injury, by economic sector and employer size 

Information on previous research on the use of emergency department records is available on this project page.

Target audience

Policy-makers at the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB); MLITSD inspectorate; large and small employers; worker representatives

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Project status


Research team

Collaborators and partners

MLITSD’s Prevention Office 

Funded by

Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD)