Injury and illness trends signal new challenges for workplace safety (December 01, 2003)
Hamilton, ON -- The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), a national resource for workplace h...
Hamilton, ON — The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), a national resource for workplace health and safety, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Nov. 17, 2003, with the opening of its new headquarters building in Hamilton, Ont.
“Over the past quarter century, CCOHS has become a leading provider of occupational health and safety information in this country and for the world,” said S. Len Hong, president and chief executive officer. “CCOHS handles more than 3.47 million information requests annually, and advises a growing list of international organizations. The Centre is recognized internationally as a comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased resource.”
Over the years, CCOHS has made an important contribution to improving workplace health and safety by promoting better working environments and by providing information and advice on preventing illnesses and injuries at work.
“In fact, in a recent Canadian survey, over 75% of users said they had changed their workplaces based on information and education from CCOHS,” said Hong.
CCOHS is also active on the international front, working with the WHO International Program for Chemical Safety, the International Labour Organization, and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, among many others.
“Today,” Hong commented, “CCOHS is even more relevant than ever because of several emerging trends”. These include:
Injury rate among young workers In Canada, one in seven young workers is injured on the job. At a level of nearly 110, 000 young people injured in a year, that means those aged 15 to 29 represent approximately one in four injured workers. Although progress has been made in reducing overall injuries and fatalities, the pace of improvement has been slower for the most vulnerable – namely, young workers.
Changing needs of an aging workforce Older workers, of which there is now a higher percentage, place different demands on the workplace. Better planning is needed to manage the reality of employees whose eyesight, reaction times and physical strength may not always be at the levels of their younger years.
Requirements of a growing multi-ethnic workforce New approaches are often needed to accommodate language and cultural differences in safety training for new Canadians.
Greater use of outsourcing, part-time and contract workers New challenges have arisen in ensuring that safety is practiced just as rigorously as if these workers were full-time; potential problems are exacerbated by the faster pace of work due to new technologies continuously appearing, as well as the increased length of work weeks.
Challenge of on-the-job stress The rise of psychosocial stress in workplaces may be costing $20 billion annually in Canada due to lost productivity and increased illness and injuries; new strategies to reduce stress are urgently needed.
Rise of small businesses The rapid growth of newly created businesses brings new workplace safety issues. Today about 43% of all Canadian workers are in organizations employing fewer than 50 people, and nearly 80% of new jobs created in small enterprises are in the service sector. Yet, these are the categories where health and safety practices need significant improvement.
“The good news is that increasingly, employers are realizing that good health management can help lower or prevent the huge expense of downtime, and it is thus a cost-reducing investment, not a law-mandated overhead. As well, more employees understand that a healthy workplace is a legal right,” said Hong.
For more information, visit www.ccohs.ca.