Statistics Canada has recently published an article entitled "Work Injuries," summarizing the findings of the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey (“CCHS”). The survey was the first of its kind on a national level and received over 75,000 Canadian respondents between the ages of 16 and 75. The objective of the survey was to analyze injury occurrence by occupational category and to examine the relationship between work-related and personal factors.

Injuries caused by accidents are the result of a number of factors coming together or failing to come together in order to provide the opportunity for an accident to occur. Risk arises from an interplay of both conditions in the work environment and individual characteristics. For this reason, Statistics Canada collected a vast amount of multi-factoral information that prior to the CCHS was simply not available.

In the past, data was compiled by individual provincial worker compensation boards, which collected information provided only when an injury was reported to the respective board. Respondents were asked to provide information regarding activity-limiting injuries related to work. According to the results, in 2003, 5% of men and 2% of women experience at least one activity-limiting occupational injury.

The CCHS collected information related to the injury itself, such as the type of injury, the body part that was injured, and information about treatment (however, the CCHS excluded repetitive strain injuries). Work-related information that was collected included the injured worker's job category, weekly hours of work, shift type, and physical work demands. Personal information was also collected by the CCHS and included factors such as age, income, alcohol consumption, smoking, educational attainment, personal stress, body weight, type of residence area, and race.

As estimated in past health and safety literature, the CCHS confirmed that fewer than half of injured workers file a worker's compensation claim. Analysis of the CCHS data revealed a number of significant factors, both intrinsic to the job and personal characteristics that were strongly associated with occupational injury. Over onequarter (28%) of occupational injuries were to the hand, followed by the lower back (16%). Forty-nine percent of occupational injuries reported to the CCHS were caused by falls and overexertion or strenuous movement. A further 32% of occupational injuries were due to accidental contact with a sharp object, tool or machine, or being accidentally struck or crushed by an object. The majority of injuries were suffered by men (72%) and of these injuries, three-quarters were within "bluecollar" industries. The CCHS defined "blue-collar" according to the Standard Occupational Classification and included sales and service occupations; trades, transport and equipment operators; occupations unique to primary industry; and occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities.

For men, occupational injury risk increased proportionately to the number of hours worked, which is consistent with previous research findings that routine overtime increases the risk of occupational injury.

Analysis also revealed that women with more than one job and women in sales and services were at a higher risk of injury when compared to female "white-collar" jobs, which was defined according to the Standard Occupational Classification and included management occupations; business, finance and administrative occupations; natural and applied sciences and related occupations; health occupations; occupations in social science, education, government services and religion; and occupations in art, culture, recreations and sport.

Shift work, physically demanding jobs, chronic health conditions, and smoking were identifed as factors, similar between the sexes, that are strongly associated with occupational injury.

Findings of the CCHS help to identify and quantify the impact of work-related conditions and personal characteristics that are strongly associated to occupational injuries. Previous to the study, the health and safety community was conscious of these factors; however, only anecdotal evidence or isolated studies were available to support them. Armed with this quantified knowledge, organizations can work towards implementing further strategies in accident prevention to combat both work-related and personal factors. Examples include instituting stress management training, safe shift-work management programs and limiting the need for routine overtime, as well as healthy eating and exercise programs.

The full article and CCHS findings can be accessed at Statistics Canada's website:  http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-003-XIE/2006007/articles/injuries-en.htm