Health and the Work Environment: A Program of Research for the Surveillance and Epidemiology of Workplace Injury and Illness and the Evaluation of Workplace Policies and Procedures to Protect and the …

Health Issue: Conditions in the work environment for many occupations involve hazards to health that reduce the well-being, working capacity and even the life span of working individuals. In 2005, three BC workers per 100 had a work-related injury or illness serious enough to require medical attention and time off work.

Objective: The objective of the research program on Health and the Work Environment is to provide evidence for primary and secondary prevention of work-related illness, injury and disability in order to advance the health of British Columbians. It spans three interconnected themes of a) research data development and surveillance of work-related injuries, illnesses and exposures, b) occupational epidemiology of risk factors associated with work-related injury and illness, and c) policy and program (intervention) evaluation to reduce work-related disability.

Work Plan and Innovation: The research data development and surveillance theme involves the merging of health databases with employment characteristics and work exposure data to map injury/illness rates and exposure groups and identify high risk groups in BC by occupation and industry. To our knowledge, this will be the only population-based occupational research database of its kind in Canada.

The occupational epidemiology theme involves a study of BC firefighters and the relationship between heart disease and exposure to smoke, carbon monoxide, or physical stress; and a study of BC workers in heavy industry and the relationship between back injury and exposure to heavy lifting, awkward postures, or vibration. The innovation of both of these studies involves novel job exposure assessment techniques.

The intervention theme includes an investigation of the effect of compensation procedures to reduce wait time (surgical fee incentive and private clinic surgeries) on return to work and re-injury for workers with musculoskeletal injuries; and a study to investigate if an early intervention program improves return to work or risk of long term disability for health care workers who are off work for 5 days with depression. These two projects provide unique opportunities to inform debates on a) health service delivery models in Canada for musculoskeletal conditions (the predominant source of disability) and b) early interventions for mental illness (the fastest rising source of disability).