Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Ontario government is creating Canada’s first occupational exposure registry to track harmful exposure levels, help diagnose workplace diseases faster, improve worker compensation, and reduce costs to the healthcare system. The registry is expected to address many of the 41 recommendations resulting from the province’s first-ever review of the occupational illness landscape, released in a report today.
“While Ontario has one of the strongest health and safety records of any jurisdiction anywhere, too many workers are falling through the cracks when it comes to occupational illness,” said David Piccini, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development.”
Many workplace illnesses currently go undiagnosed or unreported because of the delay between exposure and symptoms, making it difficult to identify occupational disease risks and for workers to get financial support when they fall ill.
The new registry would include comprehensive exposure records, identify at-risk workers, help with earlier diagnoses, and potentially contribute to expanding the list of presumptive illnesses in Ontario to improve worker compensation.
Also, Ontario is creating an occupational illness leadership table made up of industry experts and worker advocates to implement the report’s recommendations. The table will include some of the province’s foremost medical voices along with representatives from workplace health and safety groups to ensure the province keeps pace with advancements in medical science and technology and delivers for workers.
To build the registry expected in 2025, the ministry is working with the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) to collect data from existing industrial hygiene records. The Ministry and OCRC are also working with healthcare providers and industry associations to gather new data and catalogue past and current occupational exposures across Ontario’s hundreds of thousands of workplaces.
“The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has long advocated for greatly increased recognition of occupational diseases by Ontario’s workers’ compensation system,” said Patty Coates, OFL president. “A government commissioned study by Dr. Paul Demers recently found that less than 10 per cent of Ontarians with occupational cancers ever get compensated.
“The OFL welcomes the government proposal to establish an occupational disease registry as a first step towards moving on other key recommendations in the Demers report, such as increasing the number of cancers recognized for workers’ compensation.”
In addition to the Registry, work is underway to deliver on the report’s recommendations, including the development of a web-based Silica Control Tool that will assist in detecting and monitoring workplace silica exposure in the construction and mining industries.
“The new Occupational Exposure Registry is a big step forward to help answer questions and connect the dots between historic exposures and current illness,” said Jeff Lang, president and CEO, WSIB
CEO. “It will provide us with valuable information to help make evidence-based decisions to give people the help and support they need.”