OHS Futures Research Grants - Projects funded

The following research projects were funded by the OHS Futures program.

Projects funded

  • 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.

    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 behavior 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 modeling 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 modeling 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

    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 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 defense 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. Nichola 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. John 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. Nichola 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.