Translating research into real-world applications for your workplace

Oct 06, 2015

researchWSPS is currently working with system and research partners on two new practical prevention tools that will help companies to address lifting hazards and identify vulnerable workers, says Illia Tchernikov, WSPS Program Lead, OHS Research.

Each year, WSPS supports a variety of research projects that contribute to the overall knowledge base of Ontario's health and safety system. "We also use this research to develop and improve our products and solutions," says Tchernikov.

To ensure the research WSPS supports is always of value to our customers, we use these three criteria:

  • practicability/application in the workplace
  • alignment with top hazards in the province
  • pertinence to businesses of all sizes, including small business

Here is information on just two of the many research projects WSPS is involved with that will yield practical tools for your workplace.

First up - safe lifting from the floor

Within the next few months, videos will be available on the WSPS website that can help you gauge your employees' knowledge of lifting hazards, and serve as the foundation for a safe lifting training program.

Provincial health and safety associations, with WSPS in the lead, have been partnering with the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CREMSD) at the University of Waterloo on a research project targeting lifting from the floor.

In the first phase, now complete, researchers asked 180 participants to rate the risks in 50 short videos showing different objects being lifted off the floor from various levels. Participants then received more information about safe lifting and rated the videos again. "This time, they rated the risks higher," says Tchernikov. "What they are able to show is that providing this awareness and giving education has benefit."

The next phase of the project is to develop a no-cost, mobile app that further educates small business owners and managers on what makes a lift risky, with demonstration videos and information on best practices for storing items and preventing low back injuries.

Next, vulnerability index

Structuring your health and safety program to protect all vulnerable workers will be easier when a new index for measuring their risk is finalized.

Workers have traditionally been considered "vulnerable" if they are young or new to the workplace, or lack literacy skills. But are some vulnerable workers being missed? Researchers at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) have come up with a new index for gauging vulnerability and are partnering with WSPS and other system partners to validate its effectiveness.

Dr. Peter Smith, a senior scientist with IWH, has developed at 29-item diagnostic tool that assesses a worker's vulnerability against four dimensions: the hazards they face, the policies and procedures to protect them, their health and safety awareness, and their empowerment and participation. Workers who face hazards and score poorly in the other three dimensions have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses, suggest the testing and validation results of 1835 workers.

This project will be the first to evaluate the effectiveness of Ministry of Labour mandatory awareness training. The research group will compare index score post introduction of awareness training in Ontario, and the extent of its impact.

Validation work by IWH and partners continues, says Tchernikov. "WSPS has engaged over 20 of our advisory community members to further validate the index. We're looking for a better voice from young workers, temporary workers, and service sector workers to make sure it's valid in assessing their vulnerability."

Once all the results are in, and the index finalized, "it will be available to any company that wants to do a self-assessment," says Tchernikov.

Learn more about other WSPS-related research projects

Find out more about these and other research projects WSPS currently supports, including an interactive online program that allows users to create their own occupational skin disease posters.