Ontario invests $5.5 million in occupational health and safety research

Focus areas include reducing mental health stigma in the workplace, designing injury prevention programs for vulnerable workers

Ontario invests $5.5 million in occupational health and safety research

Ontario is investing $5.5 million to help better protect workers in Northern Ontario.

The government is providing the funding to contribute to the Enhancing Prevention of Injury and Disability @ Work ([email protected]) Research Institute at Lakehead University.

“Every worker in Northern Ontario should feel safe and supported on the job, and they deserve to come home safe to their loved ones after a hard day’s work,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “Our government is working for workers by proudly investing in the [email protected] Research Institute at Lakehead University so they can deliver solutions that will create lasting improvements to worker safety.”

As part of the project, the [email protected] Research Institute will help employers in Northern Ontario reduce mental health stigma in their workplaces, improve support for workers and ensure managers have the tools for the early identification of mental health symptoms.

The funding will also contribute to ongoing research to understand Indigenous workers’ experiences in Northern Ontario workplaces to provide them with better mental health support and prevent injuries on the job

More and more safety professionals believe workplace first aid should include mental health, according to a recent report.

“Lakehead University is excited for the significant, long-term investment by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in Dr. Kristman’s research and the [email protected] Research Center,” said Dr. Moira McPherson, President and Vice-Chancellor of Lakehead University. “Focussing on Northern Ontario’s workforce, with emphasis on Indigenous communities and equity-seeking groups, the Center will conduct high-quality, community-based, transdisciplinary research in the areas of work-related injury, both physical and mental, and disability prevention.”

Ontario’s occupational health and safety record is among the best in Canada, with the province achieving the lowest rate of work time lost to injury among any province or territory since 2009, the provincial government noted, citing the Association of Worker’s Compensation Boards of Canada.

However, research shows vulnerable workers are often at increased risk of workplace injury as they face challenges accessing conventional workplace health and safety resources and training, according to the provincial government. [email protected]’s research will aim to identify and address these barriers, Ontario said.

Ontario is also working with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to review the province’s occupational illness system to drive improvements in how workplace illness and disease are prevented, identified and addressed, and ensure that worker and employer needs are supported, according to the government.

Recently, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced it is launching its first-ever review of the province’s occupational illness system.