According to the World Health Organization, about two million people die worldwide each year as a result of occupational incidents and work related illnesses or injuries. Another 268 million workplace accidents result in an average of three lost workdays per accident, as well as 160 million new cases of work-related illness each year. Workplace disability exacts an enormous toll on Canadian society with more than one million workplace injuries each year.
In 2006, Canadian workers’ compensation boards disbursed $8.7 billion—more than the direct costs of treating cardio-vascular disease or cancer. WCB insured disability costs, however, represent only a small percentage of costs associated with workplace absences and reduced work productivity. Public and private sector employers share growing concerns about the “disability epidemic” and increasing disability costs associated with work absenteeism, presenteeism and a rising prevalence of chronic disability in the population contributing to reduced work productivity.
Yet, rigorous scientific studies show that workplace absences, injuries and associated disabilities are often preventable.
Prevention Requires Collaboration
Prevention requires collaborative action by many stakeholders who play different roles within the worksite and the broader community. These stakeholders include:
- Government policy makers
- Health professionals
- Business leaders
While the broader community of stakeholders must work together to improve diasability prevention, individual workplaces must take a proactive approach to coordinate their own internal structures to support disability prevention.
Disability Prevention Practices
This means implementing a coordinated, systematic and comprehensive workplace health program that includes policies, benefits and environmental supports to enhance employee health and to improve work productivity. Too often the continuum of services for employees are managed by different departments and/or contracted services. Employers must recognize there is a need for greater collaboration or coordination between departments concerned with:
- Workplace wellness
- Occupational health and safety
- Disability management
- Human resource management
- Employee training
The collaboration between these departments should then be integrated with employee performance reviews. This will provide an efficient base for improvements in disability prevention.
Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - Canada: Opportunities for Collaboration
Health & Safety Smart Planner - a software tool designed to calculate the costs and benefits of workplace health and safety initiatives.
The WorkBC Employer's Toolkit: Healthy Work Environments - This booklet offers practical information on occupational health and safety, health promotion and organization health