Disability management programs differ greatly in Ontario health-care sector

In brief

  • Health-care workplaces use suitable disability management practices in their work environment, even though their specific activities may vary.
  • Variations should be addressed to prevent and treat work-related injuries and disability more effectively.
  • Organizational policies and practices can be influenced by factors such as union involvement and workplace size.

Published: January 2007

Why was this study done?

Health-care workers are more likely to miss work because of illness and disability than workers in other sectors. Previous research shows that disability management practices—such as safety training and return-to-work programs—are effective in preventing, reducing and managing workplace injuries. This study compared disability management practices across four types of health-care workplaces: hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics and community clinics.

How was the study done?

The Organizational Policies and Practices (OPP) questionnaire was sent to 336 randomly selected health-care workplaces in Ontario. In total, 188 completed the survey. The survey included questions on eight disability management practices. They were: safety diligence, safety training, ergonomic practices, disability case management, return to work, safety leadership, people-oriented culture, and joint health and safety climate. There were also questions on the number of employees and whether the workplace was unionized.

What did the researchers find?

Among the four types of health-care facilities, there were differences in all disability management practices, except ergonomic practices. The highest ratings, with average scores of 4.2 out of 5, were in two areas. One was safety diligence, which referred to the ways the organization achieved workplace safety. The other was in joint health and safety climate practices, which addresses policies and manager involvement in safety issues. Ergonomic practices were rated lowest at 3.5. Workplaces that were unionized had better formal disability management policies. Overall disability management scores were highest for nursing homes.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

One strength is that this study is the first to systematically identify and examine workplace disability management practices in the Ontario health-care sector. However, the response rate for the overall sample was 56 per cent. More studies using larger sample sizes are needed to determine if similar results are found.