Projects funded

  • 2018

    Developing recommendations for an integrated approach to worker health and safety, Dr. Aviroop Biswas, Institute for Work & Health

    An integrated and coordinated approach combining occupational health and safety activities

    (OHS) and workplace health promotion (WHP) activities produces greater positive impacts on workers’ overall health and wellbeing than when these activities operate in isolation and in a reactive fashion. Yet, there is no guidance available for employers as to how they can implement an integrated strategy. Our study aims to support the efforts of employers to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and to promote better worker health. We propose that this can be done by better integration of OHS and WHP practices in ways that more proactively and comprehensively address worker health and safety activities. The specific objectives of our proposed study are: 1) conduct an environmental scan of existing peer‐reviewed and non‐academic literature that documents existing approaches to the integration of OHS and WHP policies and practices and identify challenges, successes and outcomes of integrated approaches; and 2) work closely with researchers and partners to identify key processes and guiding principles that need to be addressed by workplaces to integrate OHS and WHP activities. Available resources are typically focused on supporting the implementation of OHS and WHP activities as separate entities. By beginning to address this gap, this research will provide implementable guidance that employers can use to enhance the health, safety and well‐being of workers and sustain high‐levels of productivity. As part of this proposal, we have partnered with stakeholders who are important to Alberta’s economic future. They are Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund (part of Alberta Health Services – Alberta’s largest employer) and Energy Safety Canada (an organization focused on safety standards and safe work performance for Alberta’s energy industry). We will also collaborate with the Graham Lowe Group to gain learnings from their diverse expertise in applying safety and wellness research into practice. Our close consultation with these organizations will ensure that recommendations are valuable to stakeholders and are informed by the priorities, needs, constraints and feasibility factors that are unique to the Alberta labour market.

    Enhancing Workplace Safety and Wellbeing for Immigrant Women, Ms. Elza Bruk, Bow Valley College

    This project aims to contribute to an evidence‐based understanding of workplace psychosocial hazards on immigrant women workers’ wellbeing and health. As workplaces diversify, bullying, harassment, and toxic environment issues become more complex. This project considers how to mitigate and prevent harm caused by workplace psychosocial hazards and explores if there are workplace hazards that may disproportionately impact women English language learner (ELL) workers. It addresses primary prevention concerns by considering the intersectional vulnerabilities linked to gender, language, and migration while seeking to support the creation and maintenance of safe, equitable workplaces. The research methodology has two phases: 1) in‐depth interviews and focus groups with women ELL workers and employers, and 2) a knowledge co‐creation phase. In the knowledge co‐creation phase, end‐users (a sample of ELL workers and employers) along with ELL teachers and the research team will participate in data analysis and will help form recommendations based on the research. A developmental evaluation process will run concurrently with the co‐creation phase to provide feedback and reflection on the process in order to ensure it remains grounded in the lived experiences of ELL women and participatory research best practices. The data produced will contribute to the development of a scalable set of promising practices that can be incorporated into ELL classrooms, employment programs, and workplace policies informed by our understanding of the intersection between gender, migration, culture, and workplace practices. Research outcomes will yield scholarly, social, and policy benefits sustained beyond the project plan by generating outcomes that enhance collaboration and community building across a range of sectors and organizations.

    Non‐wage household workers on Alberta farms: Risks, attitudes and policy, Dr Emily Reid-Musson, University of Waterloo

    Workplace safety statutes and injury compensation insurance do not currently cover non‐wage household workers in Alberta farms. The study aims broadly to inform Alberta occupational health and safety (OHS) policy and practice through in‐depth qualitative analysis of farm and ranch sector attitudes towards OHS regulation and to create fair protections for household farm workers. The objectives of the research are to:

    1. Examine how non‐wage household workers and operators, agriculture industry and farm worker associations, and OHS regulators perceive agricultural risks and risky working conditions in household‐based agricultural contexts in Alberta
    2. Analyze attitudes towards OHS regulation in agriculture among non‐wage household workers and operators in Alberta
    3. Consider how age and gender among non‐wage household workers and operators in Alberta impact OHS risks and perceptions of risk, as well as attitudes towards OHS regulation
    4. Evaluate OHS practices and regulation options for the prevention of injury among non‐wage household farm and ranch workers in Alberta from an international inter‐jurisdictional lens
    5. Identify and inform the creation of fair and appropriate regulatory pathways to prevent OHS injury among non‐wage household workers in Alberta

    The outcomes of the study will be an international jurisdictional scan on OHS regulation of household farm operations and several core reports on in‐depth qualitative findings. These documents and various research and engagement activities aim to broadly support effective and appropriate OHS policy practice in a challenging policy area. Recognizing the unique Alberta context during a period of legislative change, our qualitative results will support situated and appropriate OHS policy and practice. The study will be led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers in the fields of occupational health and safety, public health and sustainable agriculture. They have qualitative research expertise in the farm and farm worker sector in Canada, as well as established competencies in community engagement in rural Alberta contexts. Policy and sector stakeholders will be closely involved in an advisory capacity as partners in this study to ensure results are useful to farm workers, operators, sector organizations, and government policy.

    Risk assessment for work‐related musculoskeletal injury using wearable sensors, Dr. Hossein Rouhani, University of Alberta

    About half of work‐related disabilities in Canada are related to musculoskeletal disorders. For example, up to three‐quarter of Canadians dealing with manual material lifting at work have reported low‐back pain as the most common work‐related musculoskeletal injury. As such, minimizing the risk of work-related musculoskeletal injuries through improving the work place and work‐plan strategies has garnered much attention among researchers, employers, and insurance companies because of its occurrence rate and impact of the Canadian economy and Canadian’s quality of life. Most studies that investigated the risk of work‐related injuries have been performed in a research laboratory. The implementation of this approach in a real‐world environment is limited since the motion-capture systems used for human motion measurement in a laboratory are typically not welcomed in the work environment due to privacy and confidentiality concerns. This study aims to develop a methodology for in‐field assessment of the risk of work‐related injuries using wearable technologies. In fact, prolonged work period and high repetition of tasks can lead to muscle fatigue and subsequently increase the risk of injury. Therefore, our proposed wearable technology will characterize the risk of injury based on measurement of the muscle fatigue and ergonomic risk factors. As such, we will implement the developed wearable technology to investigate the effects of work plan parameters on the muscle fatigue and ergonomic risk factors and determine the values for these work plan parameters that can reduce the risk of work‐related musculoskeletal injuries.

    What are the policy levers and opportunities to reduce occupational exposure to hazardous drugs? Dr. Cheryl Peters, Alberta Health Services

    Antineoplastic drugs (AD), often called cytotoxic or hazardous drugs, are a key tool in the fight against cancer. However, many of these drugs can cause cancer later in life as well; this may be worth the risk to a patient currently suffering from cancer, but incidental exposure to workers is an emerging concern. Evidence already suggests that occupational exposure to AD can cause reproductive problems, and concern about these low‐level exposures and the risk of cancer has been voiced. According to recent estimates of exposure produced by CAREX (CARcinogen EXposure) Canada, approximately 75,000 Canadians are occupationally exposed to antineoplastic drugs. These exposures take place primarily in pharmacy and healthcare environments. In communicating these research findings to practice and policy specialists, the CAREX team identified a large evidence gap around controlling and reducing occupational exposures to AD. The objective of our proposal is to answer the following research questions:

    1. What are the policy levers for controlling exposure to AD?
    2. What are the best practices for safe handling AD?

    By answering these questions and summarizing the findings into a compendium, we will be able to share the current state of knowledge on this topic and provide practical and evidence‐based guidance to stakeholders on how to reduce exposure to AD in the workplace.

    Sun exposure in outdoor workers: measurements and monitoring, Dr Cheryl Peters, Alberta Health Services

    Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun is an occupational hazard, and known to cause a variety of health problems in the skin, eyes, and to the immune system. Skin cancer is the largest concern in terms of negative health impacts, which is almost entirely caused by UVR exposure, and is one of the few cancers on the rise in Canada. Being an outdoor worker with prolonged exposure to the sun is a significant risk factor for skin cancer. There are an estimated 225,000 outdoor workers in Alberta, where they comprise 12% of the working population. Recent results from the Burden of Occupational Cancer project show that nearly 5,000 non‐melanoma skin cancers per year in Canada are attributable to outdoor workers’ exposure to the sun. Despite this, for most provinces (including Alberta), there are no occupational exposure measurements available to quantify the hazard in Canada.

    The two main research questions of this primary prevention project are:

    1. What are the typical full‐day UVR exposure levels for outdoor workers in Alberta?
    2. What are the best practices for creating a sun exposure and skin cancer surveillance system for outdoor workers in Alberta?

    To answer these two questions, we propose a project with two complimentary components. Firstly, we will recruit workplaces in Alberta with significant outdoor working populations to participate in UVR exposure sampling. Secondly, we will conduct an environmental and policy scan to collect information on the surveillance of outdoor workers and their occupational health, specific to sun exposure. We will evaluate materials and propose a mechanism to implement a provincial surveillance system for Alberta’s outdoor workers that could be used as a model for other provinces in the future.

    Human Resource Management Practices and Work Injury Rates in Alberta Firms, Dr. Nick Turner, University of Calgary

    In 2016, over 23,000 employees in Alberta sustained lost‐time work‐related injuries (WCB

    Alberta, 2017), resulting in time away from work, physical and psychological impairment, and negative consequences for their families, organizations, and communities. Employers in Alberta are in a strong position to manage people in organizations to maximize both organizational effectiveness and employee well‐being. Most research examining the effects of human resource management (HRM) practices--for example, selection, training, compensation, appraisal, and work design‐‐focus on traditional indicators of organizational effectiveness such as productivity or financial performance to the exclusion of employee well‐being indicators such as workplace injury rates. In addition, those studies that do focus on employee well‐being examine employee‐level outcomes to the exclusion of broader organizational‐level indicators of employee well‐being affected by how employers manage people. Drawing on theories of human resource management, the proposed research has three objectives: (1) to understand whether HRM practices at the organizational level of analysis – that is, the ways employers select, train, compensate, appraise, and design the work of employees – are related to workplace injury rates; (2) to test whether these relationships hold across a range of small‐ and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Alberta; and (3) to establish recommendations for organizations in Alberta for managing occupational safety through HRM practices. To meet these three objectives, we propose: (1) linking two existing databases‐‐one containing data on HRM practices of a sample of Alberta SMEs collected in 2016, and the other containing organizational‐level injury rates for 2013‐2017 for the same sample of SMEs publicly available through the Alberta Ministry of Labour; and (2) conducting a follow‐up HRM practices survey in late 2018 with the existing sample of Alberta SMEs to enable an assessment of how changes in HRM practices between 2016 and 2018 relate to changes in workplace injury rates between 2017 and 2019. Rather than focus only on the aftermath of injury and return‐to‐work once injured, it is important to understand how to create preemptively safe workplaces in Alberta. The results of the proposed research will be disseminated to academic audiences at a scholarly conference and through a refereed journal article, and disseminated to non‐academic audiences through Haskayne School of Business social media, speaking engagements at professional associations, consultation with community and governments groups, as well as an article in a professional magazine.

    Assessing the impact of an established peer support model within public safety personnel, Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton, University of Regina

    Our research will involve multimodal data collection to assess quantified information on the impact of ICISF‐CISM. The researchers will obtain quantitative data via self‐report questionnaires from members of departments and peers delivering the program. The researchers will also obtain quantitative data from frequencies and lengths of real time interactions addressing stress and critical incidents. The data will be collected in order to assess the correlation between resistance and resiliency with that of the frequencies of real time interactions of Peer Support. This data will allow for subjective and objective assessments of the ICISF‐CISM impact on health determinants, program engagement, perceptions of qualities associated with effective peers, and gaps in supports and services. The PIs will access departments where they have existing professional relationships through programs, and have substantial experience with delivering high fidelity ICISF‐CISM. Investigators in Canada and abroad (e.g., Carleton, Derkson) have established measures to be used in such investigations. Our study will utilize their recommended inquiry methods to serve two purposes: 1) that the information can stand the rigours and scrutiny for a peer review publication; and 2) to contribute meaningful foundational data for future research. The proposed cross‐sectional research was designed to measure three factors:

    1. Participant Mental Wellness as measured by self‐reported resistance, resiliency, and symptoms
    2. Correlations between frequencies and durations of delivered Peer Support delivered and self‐reported indices of Mental Wellness
    3. Members’ perceptions of Peer Support.

    Combining health and safety with productivity in agriculture: an ergonomic evaluation of exoskeleton for farm tasks, Catherine Trask, University of Saskatchewan

    Low back pain is one of the leading causes of years lived with disability in Canada. Among the agricultural workforce on the Canadian Prairies, there is a high prevalence of low back pain, adversely affecting quality of life and work ability. Prolonged back forward flexion or stooped posture, a risk factor contributing to low back pain, is typical of many tasks in agriculture. However, since it is not practical to change the level of the ground stooped and flexed postures are persistent in agriculture, such as calving and repairing fences. Recent technological advancement may offer supportive equipment that could mitigate adverse effects of prolonged back bending in agriculture. Exoskeletons are external wearable structures that could be used for workers’ performance restoration and enhancement that could be a solution to minimize spinal loads during back bending. This technology has been successfully tested in military and clinical applications. As its use can reduce exposure to a number of risk factors, exoskeleton technology may be an appropriate prevention strategy for back pain among farmers. This study will investigate the biomechanics and usability of a prototype exoskeleton for use in the agricultural sector. The study will recruit healthy, actively-working farmers. We will use inertial sensors to measure the back and lower limb postures, electromyography (EMG) to measure muscle activity, and heart rate monitors to estimate metabolic energy expenditure of farmworkers undertaking ground-level tasks, both with and without a prototype exoskeleton. We will also evaluate productivity, feasibility, and user experience with participant interviews. The findings of this study will help us better understand practicality of using exoskeleton for farm tasks. Producers need to consider many priorities when deciding whether or not to acquire technology or equipment for their farms; this study will summarize and disseminate findings on productivity, feasibility (i.e. tasks for which the exoskeleton is well- or ill-suited), comfort, biomechanical impact, and considerations for use (barriers and facilitators identified by participants). Ultimately, this study will support future improvements of this technology to improve the health, quality of life, and productivity of farmers.

    Fentanyl-related occupational health risks for police officers, Dr. Sandra Bucerius, University of Alberta

    Canada is in the midst of an opioid-related health crisis. In 2016, almost 3,000 Canadians died from opioid overdoses. In 2017, over 4,000 Canadians are thought to have died from overdoses, with over 1,000 of these fatalities occurring in Western Canada alone. These figures have caused the government of Alberta to declare opioids a public health crisis and form an opioid emergency response commission. A major cause of these increased levels of opioid addiction and deaths is the emergence of fentanyl and carfentanyl, which are 100 and 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, respectfully. The police are on the front-line of this growing epidemic, responding to an ever-increasing number of overdoses while trying to rid the streets of illegal narcotics. These tasks carry grave risks and may be having serious repercussion on the health and safety of police officers. Indeed, recent research has shown that police officers in Canada are much more likely to develop mental health disorders than the general population. In light of this, our research asks, “How do these new, fentanyl-related risks effect the physical and psychological health of police officers?”. To answer this question, we will conduct interviews and survey research involving members of both the Edmonton Police Service and Calgary Police Service to better understand the physical and psychological effects that fentanyl may be having on police officers. We hope to learn if and how the emergence of potent opioids are affecting the physical and mental health of police officers and their job performance and satisfaction. We will also assess how aware police officers are of opioid-related training and the emergency services available to them, and gauge how officers believe those services might be improved. Our aim is to collaborate with out police service partners to develop best practices to reduce fentanyl-related occupational hazards for police officers in Alberta and beyond. Our findings may also have implications for first responders and other criminal justice actors, such as correctional officers.

    Safety-Centric “Time-Cost-Tradeoff” Theory and Methodology for Planning Industrial Construction, Dr. Ming Lu, University of Alberta

    The dynamic conditions of construction projects require managers to make frequent decisions to ensure that projects achieve the planned schedule and cost in spite of changing circumstances. Specifically, to mitigate effects of schedule delay and cost overrun or to crash the project duration,  organizations occasionally adjust the project resource allocation plan (e.g. quantity of workers, working hours, equipment, etc.) by performing project time-cost trade-off analysis. However, the current practice of time-cost trade-off analysis does not explicitly consider safety aspects during project planning and control, potentially rendering the resulting work plan to be inadequate. The proposed Safety Centric Time-Cost-Trade-off for planning industrial construction is aimed to identify safety-related best practices and regulations that need to be taken into account during project planning to proactively mitigate hazards in formulation of sufficient work plans. To achieve this goal, this research is divided into three main phases: 1) Identification of safety best practices and regulations that need to be considered during time-cost trade-off analysis; 2) factors selection, and 3) development of safety guidelines for time-cost trade-off optimization analysis and implementation on construction projects. Besides the development of guidelines to assist companies in considering safety through project planning, research findings will facilitate the Alberta Government in developing strategies to incorporate safety practices in making time schedules and cost budgets during construction project planning.

    POWERPLAY: Building employee health and safety through prevention, Dr. Steve Johnson, Athabasca University

    Workplace health promotion programs improve physical and mental health, specifically by reducing cardiovascular risk factors, type 2 diabetes, body fat percentage, pain from musculoskeletal disorders, stress and chronic disease prevalence, as well as increasing engagement in health lifestyle behaviours such as physical activity. However, few workplace health programs take into consideration the unique context of male‐dominated industries such as oil/gas, transportation, forestry, and mining. The primary goal of this project is to evaluate a workplace health program (“POWERPLAY”) designed to promote physical activity and mental wellness in male‐dominated industries in Alberta. The secondary goal of this project is to develop and test new modules for the POWERPLAY program focused on sleep health and suicide prevention that will be co‐created with men working in male‐dominated industries in the province. The results of this research will generate important learnings to further the understanding of how employees in male‐dominated industries can be supported to be more physically active, mentally resilient, and achieve healthy sleep (i.e., quantity and quality).

    When Good Workers Ignore the Rules, Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, University of Alberta

    Procedural Intentional Non‐Compliance (PINC) is a term used to describe a condition in which well-trained and motivated workers wilfully choose to ignore known rules and procedures. Among leading safety organizations such as the Federal Aviation Administration, PINC is now viewed as the most significant human factor in major adverse incidents. Research indicates that when workers intentionally take shortcuts or modify safety procedures, those workers are up to three times more likely to suffer from unintentional errors. Consequently, PINC is one of the fastest growing themes in safety research. However, knowledge of PINC within Alberta’s non‐aviation industry sectors is insufficiently developed and where it is identified as a problem, few known remedies exist. This research replicates an established tool for measuring PINC in organizations and industrial settings. The tool, modified for web‐based application, provides a measure for why PINC is occurring in the workplace and also the techniques most effective for intervention.

    An exploration of the occupational and psychosocial variables moderating the biological embedding of stress within firefighters, Dr. John G. Mielke, University of Waterloo

    Across Canada, there are nearly 40,000 firefighters who routinely face complex job-related situations, including the possibility of life-threatening injury, or death. As a result, there is little wonder that one of the most serious occupational hazards linked with firefighting is stress. Since several decades of research have revealed that stress can influence a person’s long-term risk for a range of physical and mental health problems (from heart disease to depression), understanding the factors that may influence the way in which firefighters experience stress may help us to develop better strategies to promote their long-term health and well-being. To do this, our study will ask firefighters a series of detailed questions that will tell us about two things that have been shown to affect the way a person experiences stress: first, their appraisal of stress, and, second, the sort of social support that they have available to them. As well, we will collect a group of biological measures (like blood pressure) that will tell us how their occupational experiences have affected their bodies. Our hope is to show that the physical changes caused by job-related stress can be adjusted by either the way in which a firefighter considers (or appraises) this stress, and/or the social support that they receive.

  • 2017

    A neglected sector: improving the health and working conditions of long-haul truck drivers in Alberta, Dr. Alexander Crizzle, University of Saskatchewan

    This project’s goal is to improve the health and wellness of long-haul truck drivers in Alberta. Alberta has roughly 45,000 truck drivers, the third most among provinces. While truck driving is the second most common occupation in Alberta (behind retail sales), there have been limited studies on the health and wellness of Alberta or Canadian truck drivers. Truck drivers are often obese and have a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Long-haul truck drivers are especially at risk because of their long work hours, shift work, stress and monotony of driving, days away from home, limited access to healthy foods and opportunities for regular physical activity. Although there is no comparable data in Canada, US data shows that truck drivers have life expectancies 12 to 19 years less than the general population. Truck drivers who have chronic diseases or are in poor health are more likely to be involved in traffic and fall-related accidents. While there is US data on truck drivers, the differences between the Canadian and U.S. environments (health coverage, industry practices, hours of service regulations, diet, climate, etc.) are significant enough to prevent the generalization of the U.S. results to the Canadian context. In collaboration with stakeholders, (e.g. Transport Canada, Alberta Motor Transport Association, Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, Private Motor Trucks Council of Canada, Arrow Transportation Inc.), the study’s objectives are to: 1) describe the health, lifestyle practices, working conditions, quality of life and job satisfaction of truck drivers; 2) identify correlates and predictors of poor health, accidents (motor vehicle collisions, falls), quality of life and worker compensation claims; and 3) evaluate the truck stop environment (e.g. healthy food options, resources for physical activities, access to health information, cleanliness, etc). This research will be the first to examine the interplay between health, work and environmental factors of Alberta truck drivers, leading to recommendations for improving their health and wellness.

    A Wearable Technology for Monitoring Whole Body Vibration. Christopher Dennison, University of Alberta

    Low back pain (LBP) is estimated to cost the North American economy billions of dollars due to workplace absenteeism, litigation related to injury claims and healthcare costs. The causes of LBP are not completely understood. However, there is a large body of evidence linking exposure to whole body vibration (WBV), stemming from different sources and via different tissue interfaces, to chronic LBP. As a direct consequence, most North American jurisdictions have adopted legislation in an attempt to limit WBV in at-risk populations.

    This program’s overarching objective is to develop a wearable technology that measures WBV on the worker, as opposed to the vibrating machinery, and that can be worn during the entire work day. It is the only wearable engineered for monitoring WBV on the worker in North America, as opposed to periodically monitoring machine vibration and translating those measures to estimate doses to worker populations.

    A technology that allows WBV dose to be monitored at the site of human exposure, and that measures vibration experienced by tissue as well as metrics already used and codified in industrial standards will simultaneously be a tool valuable for WBV research and application in industrial settings where employers need to limit WBV exposure.

    Reducing risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in first responders by increasing their resilience, Dr. Peter Silverstone, University of Alberta

    There is overwhelming evidence that first responders (FR) can experience severe stress as part of their working environment. This may be due to exposure to violence and accidents in which death or severe injury occur, in addition to shift work and a constantly changing environment. While organizations screen individuals, there is no specific training given to prevent the mental health (MH) impacts of stressful work environments. Such circumstances frequently lead to MH issues, ineffective coping, and an increased number of stress leave and sick days. Training to increase the resilience of FR is a key unmet need. Since training and supports are lacking, research has found alcohol abuse to be a serious problem, with studies estimating 15 - 30% of FR abuse alcohol. Additionally, incidence rates of PTSD are significantly elevated in FR compared to the general population (12% vs. 5%). Research has shown for every officer killed on duty, 8 police officers will die by suicide. In fact, police suicide rates may be under-reported because of high rates of undetermined death with 25% of officers found to contemplate suicide. The evidence shows high rates of MH issues in other FR as well, such as paramedics and firefighters. The need is clear, and the two principal investigators are experts in this area. They have a track record of research initiatives to both recognize this issue and provide novel effective training techniques to increase resilience in meaningful and measurable ways. For this project, they plan to create an online training program to increase resilience in FR and evaluate it for program efficiency in the prevention of mental health symptoms and PTSD claims in the police. The researchers created an in-person training session; however, they want to create an online version so knowledge can be transferred more efficiently to many groups. The program includes evidence-based interventions in addition to using all of the tools found effective in previously successful training programs (i.e. role-playing, realistic scenarios, and multiple types of feedback, combined with the latest research in resiliency). Evidence strongly suggests it is possible to increase resilience in FR and appropriate training can do this. Despite this compelling need, there is no current existing evidence-based program for resilience training for FR. The present program will test the efficacy and effectiveness of a comprehensive resilience program in the police. This may lead to future policy and an effective evidence-based preventative strategy for PTSD in FR.

    Realizing the full potential of green-certified government office buildings in promoting employee mental health, Dr. Manuel Riemer, Wilfrid Laurier University

    Poor employee mental health has become one of Canada’s most prevalent and costly occupational health issues. It is well established that better indoor environments in office buildings are correlated with more satisfied occupants and with higher levels of wellbeing. It is also commonly assumed that green-certified office buildings, such as the new Edmonton Tower, provide superior working environments with beneficial outcomes on wellbeing and productivity. The empirical evidence in regard to these benefits is encouraging, although limited and inconsistent. The study will address current shortcomings that may explain the variability in the empirical findings. Starting with a strengthened theoretical foundation and a broadened understanding of wellbeing, our research will explore three key research questions: 1) What are key differences in experienced wellbeing and productivity of government employees in newly developed green-certified buildings compared to retrofitted green-certified buildings and traditional buildings? 2) What are the key factors contributing to the positive mental health and productivity benefits of green-certified buildings for government employees? And 3) To what degree and through what processes does a newly developed green-certified building contribute to a positive culture of sustainability within the building? Using a longitudinal multiple case-study design, we will compare environmental (e.g., air quality), survey (e.g., perceived wellbeing), and qualitative data (e.g., subjective experience of the building) collected within the new Edmonton Tower (built to LEED-Gold standard) with data from two comparison sites in Edmonton (a retrofitted building with BOMA-Level 1 certification and a traditional building). In addition, we will collect survey data regarding key outcomes (wellbeing, productivity, and sustainable behaviours) and a variety of relevant contributing factors (e.g., culture of sustainability) from 30 government buildings of various types within Alberta. Our integrated knowledge mobilization strategy will allow us to disseminate evidence-based information on the human impacts of sustainable buildings and on ways to create workplace settings that better support employees’ mental health.

    Measuring occupational health and safety vulnerability in Alberta, Dr. Peter Smith, Institute for Work and Health

    Vulnerable worker is a term that is often used, but not well defined in occupational health and safety (OHS). Vulnerable workers often are defined using demographic characteristics (e.g. young workers) or by belonging to a particular labour market group (e.g. workers employed by small business or in specific industries). The challenges with this approach are that it: assumes all workers within a group are vulnerable (and that workers who are not in this group are not vulnerable); runs the risk of having vulnerability thought of as something about an individual, not about their work environment; and provides no mechanism to measure changes in vulnerability over time (e.g. in response to primary prevention activities).

    This proposal’s objective is to conduct a survey of OHS vulnerability among workers in Alberta using a new measure recently developed at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto. The survey would also capture important workplace and occupational information, as well as the prevalence of injuries and the reporting of these injuries to workers' compensation.

    This project’s results will provide important information about the distribution and types of OHS vulnerability among Alberta labour force participants. This information could then be used to form the basis of primary prevention activities, and set a baseline from which changes in OHS vulnerability into the future can be based.

    Alberta Bakers Phase 3: New Onset Sensitization, Dr. Nicola Cherry, University of Alberta

    This study is to determine the incidence of sensitization to flour and related products among new trainees recruited early in their apprenticeship, or others training in the bakery trades, and followed for up to three years. At baseline when they were recruited, the trainees were skin tested for allergy to flour and other sensitizers in the workplace, and completed lung function testing. A detailed work history was collected every six months to allow the estimation of maximum and cumulative exposure to flour, using the exposure matrix developed from the literature during phase 1 of this project. The project to this point has been funded through the Government of Alberta’s OHS Futures Program. The current and final application is the repeat assessment, post exposure, of trainees recruited in years 1, 2, and 3 of the study. The testing at this final contact replicates that undertaken at baseline and includes a respiratory symptom questionnaire, skin prick testing to common and work-related allergens, and measurement of lung function. This will allow the estimation of new onset sensitization to bakery allergens and work-related symptoms suggestive of rhinitis and asthma since the start of work-related exposure to flour and other bakery antigens in this cohort. The aim is to identify a threshold of exposure below which sensitization does not occur and so inform the setting of an evidence based workplace exposure limit.

    Occupational activity and pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analysis, Dr. Margie Davenport, University of Alberta

    Women of reproductive age make up a significant proportion of the workforce and approximately 90% of pregnant women remain employed during pregnancy. Yet the impact of different types of occupational activity including prolonged standing, shift work and physically demanding work on maternal/fetal health outcomes is poorly understood.

    The Canada Labour Code preserves the right of pregnant women to stop performing any occupational task that may pose a risk to the health of the mother or fetus (132 (1)). Section 132 (2) of the code also requires that women immediately contact their health care provider to seek medical confirmation of this risk. Although clinicians play a critical role in the decisions regarding prenatal occupational activity, recent data suggest that there is wide variability in employment recommendations, in part due to a lack of authoritative recommendations. The goal of this project is to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the impact of various types of occupational activity on maternal/fetal health outcomes including (but not limited to) birth weight, preeclampsia, miscarriage and preterm delivery. At the completion of this project we aim to provide rigorously evaluated evidence-based recommendations to help inform occupational health and safety policy for pregnant women. By understanding the potential risks and benefits of occupational activity on the health of a pregnant women and her baby, we will make a meaningful contribution towards healthy and safe workplaces in Alberta.

    OHS Essentials: Engaging First Nation Communities for Improved Safety Outcomes, Dr. Patricia Makokis, University of Alberta

    First Nations and Metis Settlements in Alberta lack the financial and human resources to meet all the needs of their communities. As a result, occupational health and safety often comes second to food security, housing and education. There is little or no information on Indigenous specific OHS needs, programs or services. As a result, Indigenous people are at greater risk of experiencing occupational illness, injury or fatalities and disease than non-Indigenous people. Two gaps in knowledge stand out: one being emergency response. In the wake of recent community emergencies in First Nations, including wild fires and floods, many occupational health and safety issues were identified. What measures, procedures or action plan(s) would a Nation or Settlement use? This research will inform the building of a first of its kind ‘Occupational Health and Safety Policy/Emergency Response Plan co-designed, co-owned and implemented by the partners who sign onto the research partnership agreement(s).

    The second major gap is the absence of Indigenous specific OHS frameworks, policies, or education for workplace safety that is based upon the context and realities of Indigenous people and communities. Utilizing Alberta’s WorkSafe framework as a starting point, research findings will inform strategies for the design of a unique model for Indigenous OHS. The research will inform the development of an OHS education program that reflects Indigenous approaches to knowledge transfer and mobilization and set Indigenous safety standards that meet or exceed current provincial standards.

    Using Indigenous research methodologies, this project will undertake a needs assessment to determine the current health and safety needs; a gap analysis to identify the education needs required to close the gap; and asset mapping to build upon the knowledge and assets of communities in the building of an Indigenous specific OHS education program. The research findings will strengthen and build community capacity, enhancing community and workplace safety.

    Improving OHS performance with OHS and environmental creative sentencing spillovers, Dr. Heather Eckert, University of Alberta

    Loss incidents in Alberta cause a staggering number of injuries and fatalities: there are nearly 150,000 injury claims every year; 28,000 of these injuries cause time lost from the job; and one worker is killed every 9 days. In fact, between 2005 and 2014, a total of ~$6.7 billion was incurred in costs and claim payments. In addition, some of these incidents resulted in harmful leaks and spills to the environment and significant business losses. Reducing the frequency and severity of these incidents would have significant health, social, and economic benefits for the people of Alberta.

    In this project we propose to examine the effectiveness of creative sentences in reducing workplace injuries. Creative sentences add to traditional fines requirements such as education and research, the undertaking of specific projects, or publishing an apology or violation description. Such sentencing prevents future harm by promoting organizational learning and rehabilitation, as well as leveraging public denunciation and reputational concerns. Recent research examining the enforcement of U.S. OSHA regulations suggests that public denunciation not only improves behaviour at the focal (punished) firm but also at other firms that which to avoid reputational harm.

    In order to better understand how different types of punishment can alter various components of a company’s health and safety performance we will compare the reduction in injury rates, at both the focal and proximate firms (by geography and/or industry), following a creative sentence and other forms of punishment. We also explore whether creative sentences lead to changes to management practices and control systems that could improve performance in multiple dimensions by examining the effect that creative sentences for environmental violations have on health and safety outcomes.

    The Power of Perception: Building Risk-Aware Cultures, Dr. Louis Francescutti, University of Alberta

    Despite ongoing efforts to improve safety practices and equipment, organizations continue to struggle with unacceptable levels of worksite near-misses, injuries, and fatalities. From current research in aviation, it is understood that the critical and determining variable in preventing harm is no longer one of mechanical reliability but of the worker reliability, as measured by attitude and behaviour. This project utilizes an established perception survey to understand worker experiences along several worksite themes. Results are then compared with on-site observational safety audits as well as known incident history. Structural equation modelling is utilized to define relationships between perception survey results, observed worksite behaviour, and known safety records. This triangulated approach provides evidence of the survey’s capability to offer threat and risk awareness to individuals and organizations that employ it.

    Gender at work: Understanding and enhancing gender-responsive workplace mental health practices and policies, Dr. Bonnie Lashewicz, University of Calgary

    The workplace has always been a determinant of psychological well-being, and in Canada, a connection between work and identity is virtually indisputable. Boundaries dividing self from work are becoming more porous making workplaces increasingly likely to impact, and be impacted by, employee mental health. Workplaces can contribute to well-being by helping people attain their potential, but can also present stress and contribute to the development of mental health problems - such as depression - which are growing in prevalence in Canada. Yet strategies for workplace prevention and management of mental health problems are underdeveloped and underused and we believe underdevelopment and underuse reflects not only the dynamic nature of mental health, but also the shortcomings of strategies that target individual employees, rather than workplace practices and policies. Our purpose is to contribute to understandings of how workplace practices and policies can support or impede employee mental health and to advance gender responsive, mental health promoting practices and policies. We will use gender as our organizing axis to examine employee experiences amidst their “social locations” amidst relationships/families and workplace practices and policies, and our objectives are to: 1- examine employee views about what supports and impedes workplace mental health by drawing out interconnected aspects of employee experiences amidst their social locations; 2- compare employee experiences within masculinized versus feminized workplaces; 3- develop gender responsive resources for promoting workplace mental health; and 4- produce scholarly products that advance evidence and theory for gender-responsive, mental health promoting workplace practices and policies. These practice resources and scholarly products will build on means through which employers and employees within and beyond Alberta can discern and respond to mental health needs which are often embedded within individual, relationship and workplace practice and policy dynamics.

    Exposure assessment of antineoplastic drug contamination on work surfaces, Dr. Hugh Davies, University of British Columbia

    Antineoplastic drugs (AD) used in treatment of cancer present many occupational health hazards to healthcare workers, including adverse reproductive effects and cancer. Previous studies have documented AD residues on surfaces in pharmacy, nursing and patient-care areas. There are no regulated exposure limits in Canada, or elsewhere.  Variability of contaminants across surfaces is poorly understood making it difficult to develop sampling guidance. Nevertheless, monitoring contamination using surface wipe testing is now required by safe drug handling guidelines, such USP 800. Regular screening for contamination by AD will help to identify contamination levels, sources, pathways and determinants of exposure, with the ultimate goal to prevent of worker exposure. The study applicants have previously developed a novel simple wipe sampling method for pharmacy and patient care settings, and validated a method for cost-effective extraction and quantification of ten different antineoplastic drugs from the wipe samples. Members of this research team have also used surface samples as part of an intervention study in two healthcare settings. In the proposed study, we will expand on our prior method development work to: (1) undertake a hazard assessment of AD exposure in cancer care facilities in Alberta, and a comparison to similar facilities in Minnesota; (2) characterize determinants of AD contamination; (3) describe how AD contamination varies over time and space; and (4) use findings from this study to recommend a sampling strategy that supports the requirements of new safe drug handling guidelines. We will recruit representative samples of health care facilities in AB (N=6 sites) and MN (N=3) where AD is used in both pharmacy and patient care settings, and stratified on facility type. We will undertake a comprehensive year-long exposure survey of approximately 2000 wipe samples. Staff at participating sites will use UBC wipe-sampling kits to conduct monthly surveys. On three occasions research-staff will assist in an “oversampling” exercise to generate spatial data. Wipe samples will be returned to UBC for chemical analysis. Data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression modelling techniques for objectives 1-3, and the findings used in development of proposed surveillance guidelines that we will workshop with participants at the end of the study.

    The effectiveness of regulatory enforcement activities in reducing workplace injury rates in Alberta, Dr. Christopher McLeod, University of British Columbia

    Regulatory enforcement such as workplace consultations, inspections, citations and penalties are key tools for OHS agencies to ensure compliance with health and safety standards and in reducing workplace injury rates. Research from systematic reviews conducted by study investigators and collaborators has found that inspections and inspections with citations and/or penalties are associated with increased compliance and reduced firm-level injury rates. However, this body of research has largely been conducted in the United States or other countries where the OHS regulatory environment is different than Canada and findings may not be generalizable to Canadian jurisdictions. There have been two studies conducted in Canada examining the effectiveness of regulatory enforcement activities. The first was conducted in Ontario and examined the effect of inspections on firm-level claim rates after randomizing firms into an inspected cohort and non-inspected cohort. The second, conducted in British Columbia by principal applicant McLeod, looked at the effectiveness of inspections and orders on firm-level activities over at 10-year period using quasi-experimental design methods. Both of these studies found that inspections and orders had a modest effect on firm-level injury rates, but were limited with regards to the ability to identify how to improve regulatory enforcement activities in the Canadian context. This study proposes an in-depth investigation of the effectiveness of inspections, citations, orders and penalties on firm-level injury rates in Alberta. We propose to do a linkage of data on regulatory enforcement activities conducted by OHS Alberta with firm-level claims data held by the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board. The study will build on methods developed by study investigators for the British Columbia evaluation described above. In brief, it will link the OHS inspections data to workers' compensation data and will use propensity score approaches to match inspected (intervention) firms with and non-inspected (control firms) firms for the evaluation. It will then examine the effect of inspections on firm-levels claims rates using a difference-in-difference study design. The general methodological approach is similar to that currently being used in the evaluation of the Alberta COR program conducted by the principal applicant (McLeod). In particular, we will look at the effects of both general (i.e., does the increase in the likelihood of enforcement activities decrease firm-level claim rates by industry sector) and specific deterrence (i.e., do firms who have enforcement activities have lower claim rates compared to matched firms that do not have enforcement activities). We will, where the data permits, look at specific enforcement activities such as order type and follow-up inspections.

  • 2016

    Epidemiology of non-reported work-related injuries among Licensed Practical Nurses in Alberta, Dr. Don Voaklander, University of Alberta

    The high incidence of work-related injuries in nurses represents a significant economic and human burden. Despite that high incidence of work-related injuries has been identified among nurses, it is estimated that the official reports greatly underestimate the actual magnitude of this problem. To the best of knowledge there is no body of research exploring the epidemiology of non-reported work-related injuries among LPNs in AB. Therefore, this research aims to estimate the proportion of non-reported work-related injuries among LPNs, and to explore the reasons associated with failure to report them. This study uses data collected through a survey linked to the CLPNA administrative database which content information of all the LPNs members in 2016. It is expected that results from this project will help to gain a better understanding of the epidemiology of non-reported work-related injuries among LPNs. Furthermore, the identification of reasons associated with failure to report those injuries can help to plan interventions directed to tackle this problem. Results from this study could be used to encourage LPNs to file compensation claims right away in order to reduce the burden of work-related injuries and the risk of re-injury.

    Metabolomics of welding fume exposure: a novel biomarker approach for monitoring health in welders, Dr. Bernadette Quemerais, University of Alberta

    Exposure of welders to welding fumes is a recognized occupational hazard, particularly in enclosed spaces or areas that are poorly ventilated. Some welders develop respiratory problems that may progress into serious disease conditions. At present there are no monitoring strategies for evaluating the exposure of welders to toxic levels of welding fumes. Dr. Lacy’s proposed research aims to generate a new approach to monitoring the exposure of welders to toxic welding fumes. This approach uses a new technique called metabolomics, where metabolites can be identified in urine samples of welders. Metabolomics provides a “snapshot” of the health profile of welders and can generate biomarkers that indicate a potential disease.
    Epidemiology of non-reported work-related injuries among Licensed Practical Nurses in Alberta, Dr. Don Voaklander, University of Alberta
     
    In Alberta, a large number of work-related injuries in nurses contribute to a significant economic and human burden. Even though this issue is known, it is estimated that the official reports of work-related injuries in licensed practical nurses (LPNs) greatly underestimate the actual size of this problem. The epidemiology of non-reported work-related injuries among LPNs in Alberta is a poorly researched topic. This research aims to first estimate the number of non-reported work-related injuries among LPNs. Secondly, the project aims to explore the reasons for non-reporting of work-related injuries. By identifying reasons associated with failure to report, the information may inform interventions directed at tackling this problem. Finally, results from this study could be used to encourage LPNs to file injury claims right away to reduce the burden of work-related injuries and the risk of re-injury.

    Developing Performance Indicators for Alberta’s Internal Responsibility System, Dr. Bob Barnetson, Athabasca University

    This project aims to design and benchmark metrics that assess workers’ experience with the operation of Alberta’s internal responsibility system (IRS) in order to quantify changes in injury prevention behaviours. The IRS represents the first-line of defence against workplace injuries, in which workers and employers cooperate to recognize, assess, and control hazards. Worker participation in the IRS is enabled through the three safety rights they are granted by the Occupational Health and Safety Act: the rights to (1) know about hazards in their workplace, (2) participate in hazard identification and control, and (3) refuse unsafe work.

    Immigrant employees’ perspectives on occupational safety, work conditions and return-to-work experiences after occupational injury or illness, Dr. Janki Shankar, University of Calgary

    Immigrant workers make up a significant proportion of the Canadian workforce; unfortunately for many of them, their labour market experience is not a positive one. Many recent immigrants (those in Canada for less than 10 years), especially linguistic and visible minorities, are over-represented in jobs and workplaces that are hazardous to their safety and well-being. These workers experience more barriers when returning to work after an occupational injury/illness, compared to Canadian-born workers in similar positions. To improve occupational safety, workplace integration post-injury and prevention of occupational injuries/illness for these workers this study will (a) examine their perspectives on occupational health and safety, workplace conditions leading to injury/illness, employer attitudes towards their injury, and the socioeconomic and cultural factors that shape their perspectives and experiences and (b) identify strategies, approaches and potential interventions informed by their needs and preferences. In-depth interviews with immigrant employees will be done to explore the above issues.

    Effectiveness of Random Drug and Alcohol Screening as an Intervention for Occupational Injury Prevention, AB, Dr. Sebastian Straube, University of Alberta

    The use of alcohol and other drugs represents a significant and growing problem in the workforce, with 5%–20% of workers at risk of addiction. The profile of substance use is changing in Alberta, especially as it pertains to analgesics (narcotics, opioids), in particular fentanyl, and the dramatic increase in the numbers of authorizations for medical marijuana. It is probable that occupational risk will occur following the consumption of substances at work, or within close temporal proximity of work. To date, the exploration of the link between the use of alcohol or other drugs (AOD) and measures to improve workplace injury prevention has been insufficient. Random AOD testing, despite the observed expansion, has not been adequately evaluated. More research to evaluate the effectiveness of random workplace drug testing is therefore urgently needed. Dr. Straube and his team will conduct a systematic review of the world literature on this topic. This will inform policy and practice as it relates to the adoption of workplace random AOD testing. As part of an overall drug-free workplace policy, this may contribute to increased safety in Alberta workplaces in the face of a changing substance use profile in Alberta and Canada.

    Is COR associated with lower firm-level injury rates? An evaluation of the effect of an audit-based occupational health and safety recognition program on firm work-injury rates in Alberta, Canada, Dr. Christopher McLeod, University of British Columbia

    Partnerships in Injury Reduction is a voluntary program that awards Certificates of Recognition (COR) to employers that have developed an occupational health and safety (OHS) management system and met established standards. Although the program has been in effect in Alberta since the 1990s, there have been no evaluations of the effect of COR certification on firm-level injury rates. A recent study conducted in British Columbia (BC) showed that firms achieving OHS COR, had, on average, a 12% lower short-term, long-term and fatality injury rate compared to a control group of non-COR firms. The current study proposes to build on the research conducted in BC by assessing the effect of COR injury certification on firm-level injury rates in Alberta. A year- and trend-specific analysis will be performed to assess the impact of COR certification across time and industrial sectors. The projects’ findings will not only provide Alberta-specific evidence on the impact of COR certification on firm-level injury rates, but it will also contribute to an overall understanding of the effectiveness of OHS management certification programs.

    Evaluating a Respirable Crystalline Silica Risk Assessment Model for the Construction Industry in Alberta, Dr. Melanie Gorman Ng, University of British Columbia

    Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is among the most common occupational carcinogens. A predictive model has been developed for estimating RCS exposure in construction has been tailored to the British Columbia (BC) construction industry and has not been validated against external data. This study aims to adapt the BC model for Alberta (AB) and aims to validate the model against exposure measurements from worksites. Dr. Gorman Ng and her team will compile a focus group of construction representatives to develop a list of common tasks in the AB construction industry that can cause RCS exposure. They will then conduct exposure monitoring at AB worksites for tasks that are missing from the BC model. These will be used to update the model to include AB tasks. They will also collect additional measurements on all silica exposure tasks that will be used to validate the model. Measurements taken in the field will be compared to the exposure levels predicted by the model. This project will result in a model that is validated and tailored for the AB construction industry and can be used in RCS exposure risk assessment ultimately contributing to reductions in RCS exposures for construction workers in AB.

    A Controlled Dose-Response Human Study to Develop a Signature of Occupational Diesel Exhaust Exposure, Dr. Chris Carlsten, University of British Columbia

    Strong scientific understanding of how emissions from diesel engines impact the lungs could improve policies and regulations protecting workers exposed to diesel exhaust. Accordingly, Dr. Carlsten and his team are recruiting healthy volunteers who are non-smokers to participate in a study. Volunteers will sit in a room for four hours and breathe either clean filtered air or air that contains pollution at levels similar to occupational settings that use diesel engines, such as railroads and mines. A lung doctor then assesses volunteer’s lung health and takes clinical samples. The research team is equipped with advanced molecular biology tools to measure different molecules and compare samples from the volunteer subjects following exposure to clean air or diesel exhaust. The research aims to find a simple, clinically relevant strategy that can be used to measure the impact of diesel exhaust on workers’ lung health. This knowledge will empower regulators, companies, and ultimately workers to better manage their health risks. This research also aims to provide specific data to help regulators to make informed decisions about the risks of diesel exhaust exposure.

    WHAT-ME/WHAT-MEN (Women’s Health in Apprenticeship Trades – Metal Working and Electrical / Workers’ Health in Alberta Trades – Men) (Renewal Application), Dr. Nicola Cherry, University of Alberta

    The WHAT-ME and WHAT-MEN projects recruit Canadians who have registered in apprenticeships with training in welding (welder, pipefitter, steamfitter, boilermaker), electrical trades or metal working. For women, the WHAT-ME study was established to examine the effects on women’s health and fertility, as well as the health of the fetus as it related to exposures in these trades. The WHAT-MEN project provides information on health and welding exposures in men who have undertaken registered apprenticeships in Alberta. Information from the two studies will allow for the examination of the relationship between work tasks, exposures and new onset of ill-health in men and women in the welding trades and to identify aspects of work in welding that may be hazardous to men, women and/or the unborn child.

  • 2015

    It’s Your Move: Evaluating Improvements to Client Handling Practices in Alberta, Dr. Siegrid Deutschlander, Alberta Health Services

    This project evaluates the “It’s Your Move” program, an Alberta Health Services program aiming to reduce musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers in Alberta. 27,000 healthcare workers at over 100 long-term and acute-care facilities were trained under the program and the results must now be evaluated. Dr. Deutschlander’s research project examines the specific conditions at 10 acute care sites to better understand the barriers to and opportunities for success. In addition, Dr. Deutschlander and her team will analyze the cost benefits of the program as a whole, and develop a metrics template for future assessment of the program impacts.

    Flour exposure, sensitization and respiratory health among Alberta bakers, Dr. Jeremy Beach, University of Alberta

    This research seeks to identify the prevalence and incidence of sensitization and respiratory health effects of workplace exposures among bakery workers in Alberta. The research project aims to conduct a survey of workers to determine the prevalence of health problems related to flour and to establish a group of workers entering the industry (apprentices) who can be followed to determine the incidence of new respiratory health problems among Alberta bakers. The information collected in Dr. Beach’s research projects may assist in determining ways of minimizing the risk of work-related sensitization and adverse respiratory health effects in bakers.

    Occupational interventions for the prevention of back pain – overview of systematic reviews and demonstration of a knowledge-translation application, Dr. Sebastian Straube, University of Alberta

    Back pain is one of the most common health problems – some 80 per cent of people experience it at some point in their lives. Back pain can be caused by work or be made worse by work. Work-related back pain can result in workplace injuries, workers’ compensation claims, as well as decreased worker attendance and productivity in the workplace. Employers have a duty to assess and control the risks in the workplace, including the ergonomic risks that lead to back pain. Workplace-related interventions, such as lifting advice, lifting aids, exercises, or back schools may be of benefit in preventing back pain. Dr. Straube’s research proposes to produce an overview of systematic reviews to bring together and assess all the available evidence and derive recommendations for practice.

    Epidemiology of musculoskeletal injuries and their association with physical fitness among police officers in Edmonton, AB, Dr. Don Voaklander, University of Alberta

    Police officers commonly face situations that put them at higher risk for injury. Although musculoskeletal injuries are frequently suffered by police officers, only scarce research has documented the occurrence of this type of injuries in this population. An association between low occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries and high levels of physical fitness has been suggested in police officers; however, further analysis of this association is needed to draw conclusive results. Using administrative databases from Edmonton Police Services (EPS), the goal of this research is to expand the current knowledge of the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries among police officers, and to explore the association between occurrence of injuries and level of physical fitness in this group. The results of this project may help identify whether physical fitness influences the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries among police officers, and could highlight the potential benefits of training and exercise programs to prevent and/or decrease the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries among members of the EPS.

    Metabolomics of welding fume exposure: a novel biomarker approach for monitoring health in welders, Dr. Paige Lacy, University of Alberta

    Exposure of welders to welding fumes is a recognized occupational hazard, particularly in enclosed spaces or areas that are poorly ventilated. Some welders develop respiratory problems that may progress into serious disease conditions. At present there are no monitoring strategies for evaluating the exposure of welders to toxic levels of welding fumes. Dr. Lacy’s proposed research aims to generate a new approach to monitoring the exposure of welders to toxic welding fumes. This approach uses a new technique called metabolomics, where metabolites can be determined in urine samples of welders. Metabolomics provides a “snapshot” of the health profile of welders and can generate biomarkers that indicate a potential disease. This approach could provide indications of excessive exposure to welding fumes, and potentially biomarkers of disease.

    WHAT-ME/WHAT-MEN (Women’s Health in Apprenticeship Trades – Metal Working and Electrical / Workers’ Health in Alberta Trades – Men) (Renewal Application), Dr. Nicola Cherry, University of Alberta

    The WHAT-ME and WHAT-MEN projects recruit Canadians who have registered in apprenticeships with training in welding (welder, pipefitter, steamfitter, boilermaker), electrical trades or metal working. For women, the WHAT-ME study was established to examine the effects on women’s health and fertility, as well as the health of the fetus as it related to exposures in these trades. The WHAT-MEN project provides information on health and welding exposures in men who have undertaken registered apprenticeships in Alberta. Information from the two studies will allow for the examination of the relationship between work tasks, exposures and new onset of ill-health in men and women in the welding trades and to identify aspects of work in welding that may be hazardous to men, women and/or the unborn child.

  • 2014

    Healthy workplaces for helping professions: a framework for addressing psychosocial hazards for child and family service workers, Dr. Thomas Barker, University of Alberta

    This research addresses work-related psychosocial hazards in the child and family services sector in Alberta. The project undertakes the initiative to gather knowledge about psychological hazards and control measures, to disseminate that knowledge to the agencies and, most importantly, to measure the effectiveness of the initiative.

    Flour exposure, sensitization and respiratory health among Alberta bakers, Dr. Jeremy Beach, University of Alberta

    This research seeks to identify the prevalence and incidence of sensitization and respiratory health effects of workplace exposures among bakery workers in Alberta. The proposal aims to conduct a systematic review of the current literature, conduct a survey of workers to determine the prevalence of health problems related to flour and to establish a group of workers entering the industry who can be followed to determine the incidence of new respiratory health problems among Alberta bakers.

    Occupational injuries in inter-provincial workers in Alberta: a feasibility study with focus on Newfoundland, Dr. Nicola Cherry, University of Alberta

    Alberta has a shortage of skilled workers and, as such, many workers from other provinces come to Alberta to work. This feasibility study will explore whether existing databases might be used to estimate injury rate for Canadian residents with and without permanent residence in Alberta, supplemented by data on work patterns and job demands of those coming to Alberta to work. The proposal will test the feasibility of establishing a cohort of workers, both from in-province and from Newfoundland, who are currently working in the Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo region.

    Metabolomics of welding fume exposure: a novel biomarker approach for monitoring health in welding apprentices, Dr. Paige Lacy, University of Alberta

    Exposure of welders to welding fumes is a recognized occupational hazard. At present, there are no monitoring strategies for evaluating the exposure of welders to toxic levels of welding fumes. This research proposal aims to generate a new approach to monitoring the exposure of welders to toxic welding fumes, and the approach involves the use of a new technique called metabolomics where metabolites can be determined in urine samples of welders.

    A qualitative study of reflection-based safety literacy education, Ms. Jodi Howick, NAIT

    It is recognized that there is a growing need for Alberta workers to have the skills to work safely in a wide variety of hazardous environments. To address this gap, NAIT has recently developed a safety literacy course to provide the foundational tools to support new employees. The purpose of this project is to understand the student experience of reflection-based safety literacy education both in the classroom and on the worksite.

    Workplace violence in Alberta child welfare, Dr. David Nicholas, University of Calgary

    Existing research reports high prevalence rates of workplace violence experienced by child welfare workers. This study will collect data from various employees within the child welfare sector to identify key factors that determine workplace violence, identify key factors that influence the prevalence of workplace violence and employees’ decisions to leave or remain in the field, and identify responses from employers that can protect the occupational health and safety of employees.

    Development and validation of a proactive ergonomic intervention targeting Alberta’s rural and urban childcare operators and workers, Dr. Jon Doan, University of Lethbridge

    The primary purpose of the project is to combine expert field ergonomic risk evaluation with a thorough review of the current literature to identify major work-related musculoskeletal disorders and contributing factors amongst rural and urban childcare workers in Alberta. Another purpose is to prepare, deliver and assess education, exercise and nutrition program to improve and promote workplace health. The tertiary purpose is to identify a viable final package and dissemination strategy for the program amongst rural and urban childcare workers across Alberta.

    Impacts of vibration reduction on back pain and fatigues in truck drivers, Dr. Philip Bigelow, University of Waterloo

    Truck driving is a very common occupation in Alberta and drivers are constantly exposed to whole-body-vibration transmitted via the tractor’s seat. Drivers experience back pain as well as fatigue from vibration exposure. The study examines the impact of new anti-vibration technologies on reducing back pain, fatigue as well as driver drowsiness.

    WHAT-ME/WHAT-MEN (Women’s Health in Apprenticeship Trades – Metal Working and Electrical / Workers’ Health in Alberta Trades – Men) (Renewal Application), Dr. Nicola Cherry, University of Alberta

    The WHAT-ME and WHAT-MEN projects recruit Canadians who have registered in apprenticeships with training in welding (welder, pipefitter, steamfitter, boilermaker), electrical trades or metal working. For women the WHAT-ME study was established to examine the effects on women’s health and that of the fetus of exposures in these trades. The WHAT-MEN project provides information on health and welding exposures in men who have undertaken registered apprenticeships in Alberta. Information from the two studies will allow for the examination of the relationship between work tasks, exposures and new onset of ill-health in men and women in the welding trades and to identify aspects of work in welding that may be hazardous to men, women or the unborn child.