Current research projects
Canadian Work Disability Prevention Management System Standard for Paramedics
Funding agency: Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC): CSSP-2017-CP-2310
Our key project partners: Canadian Standard Associations (CSA), Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP), Paramedic Association of Canada (PAC), Paramedic Chiefs of Canada (PCC), County of Renfrew
Project description: The prevention and management of work disability is a significant challenge for paramedic services. It also has an impact beyond the workplace – affecting individuals outside of work, families, and communities. As a result, development of paramedic health and wellness standards is listed as a priority in the Paramedics Association of Canada (PAC) 2016-2018 Strategic Plan.
Work disability prevention and management is often dealt with reactively and differently in each paramedic organization. Since work disability prevention and management is not integrated within management systems, and not systematized across the paramedic community, it can be very resource intensive and not as effective as it could be. Therefore, developing an evidence-informed and unified/standardized approach will fill a critical gap. It will enable the collection of consistent data for continuous improvement and ongoing/future research. In addition, the Standard has the potential and capacity to address a wide range of disabilities, including physical disabilities such as those caused by musculoskeletal disorders.
The main objective of this study is to develop, promote, and disseminate a nationally applicable Canadian Paramedic Work Disability Prevention Standard and related tools to help prevent and manage work disability, specifically those associated with Operational Stress Injuries.
Publications: Du, B., Yung, M., Gruber, J., Tompa, E., & Yazdani, A. (2020).
Work Disability Management of PTSI in Paramedic Service Organizations: A Needs Assessment. Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON.
Du, B., Yung, M., Gruber, J., Tompa, E., & Yazdani, A. (2020).
Prevention & Management of PTSI in Paramedic Service Organizations: An Environmental Scan of Recommended Programs and Practices. Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON.
Bronson Du, MSc
Canadian First Responder Fatigue Risk Management Standard
Funding agency: Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) [CSSP 2018-CP-2366]
Our key project partners: Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group), Paramedic Chiefs of Canada (PCC), Paramedic Association of Canada (PAC), County of Renfrew
Project description: First responders are at high risk of suffering decrements in neurocognitive performance related to fatigue. Such performance decrements endanger not only the personal health and safety of these responders but also the health and safety of their fellow responders and the public they serve. For these reasons, first responders constitute an occupational group that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of fatigue. Managing responder fatigue and mitigating its associated health and safety risks are therefore essential to protect first responder and public health and safety.
The objective of this project is to develop an evidence-informed National Standard on First Responder Workplace Fatigue Risk Management which will be used across Canada to improve first responder health and wellness and will support the collection of consistent, national data that will inform the development of a robust and comprehensive Canadian First Responder Information System. This will ultimately advance first responder professions by making accurate data available for research, improved operational practice, informed decision-making and policy development, improved frontline personnel health and safety, and improved patient and community outcomes.
Publications: Yung, M., Du, B., Gruber, J., & Yazdani, A. (2021). Developing a Canadian fatigue risk management standard for first responders: Defining the scope. Safety Science, 134.
Gruber, J., Yung, M., Du, B., & Yazdani, A. (2020).
Current fatigue risk management strategies for first responders. Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON.
Yung, M., Gruber, J., Du, B., & Yazdani, A. (2020).
Fatigue risk management for first responders: Current landscape of perspectives, policies, and practices. Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON.
Yung, M., Gruber, J., Du, B., & Yazdani, A. (2020).
Fatigue risk management for first responders: State of knowledge. Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON.
Conference presentations: Yung, M., Meyer, R., & Yazdani, A. (2020). Developing a national standard on first responder workplace fatigue risk management. Virtually Fire Rescue Canada 2020 Webinar Series. October 28, 2020.
Project manager:Marcus Yung, PhD, CPE
Canadian Standard for Paramedic Ground Emergency Response Vehicles and Equipment
Funding agency: Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) [CSSP-2016-CP-2285]
Our key project partners: Canadian Standard Associations, Paramedic Association of Canada, Paramedic Chiefs of Canada, Centre of Research Expertise for Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD), County of Frontenac
Project description: Strengthening the capacity of the paramedic community through the development of standards pertaining to the design and use of next generation ambulances and equipment is an important issue identified by the paramedic community and scientists. Paramedics are 2.9 times more likely to suffer from injuries that required time away from work, and 13 times more likely to suffer from low back pain when compared to other industries. Considering the complex and dynamic work, the elevated injury rates may not be surprising. For example, the frequent need to extricate and transfer patients on to and off of backboards, stretchers and stair chairs also expose paramedics to human factors/ergonomic (HFE) hazards, such as high forces, awkward postures, and repetitive movements. Although the essential tasks of patient handling, care, and transport cannot be eliminated, the design of the ambulance and its associated equipment, which play a significant role in how paramedics interact with their patients, is modifiable.
Since paramedics use the ambulances and equipment that are provided by their employers, they often rely on manufacturers and procurement personnel to consider their interactions with the work system, i.e., core principles of ergonomics, when designing or purchasing products. However, these general principles may not be sufficient because ergonomic guidelines, standards, and research specific to ambulances and paramedic equipment are either not readily accessible or applicable. On the contrary, ambulance and equipment design standards, which are mandated and used as a basis for communicating design requirements, provide limited guidance on HFE principles.
The objective of this project is to develop a Canadian Standard that specifies minimum HFE design and usage requirements for emergency response vehicles and equipment with consideration to paramedic and patient safety and infection control.
Canadian Standard on Ergonomic Design of Ambulances and Related Equipment (CSA D500)
Infographics to support the implementation of CSA D500
Peer-reviewed publications: Du, B., Boileau, M., Wierts, K., Hignett, S., Fischer, S., & Yazdani, A. (2019). Existing science on human factors and ergonomics in the design of ambulances and EMS equipment. Prehospital emergency care, 23(5):631-646. doi:
Du, B., Boileau, M., Wierts, K., Karch, S. B., Yung, M., Fischer, S., & Yazdani, A. (2020). Exploring the need for and application of human factors and ergonomics in ambulance design: Overcoming the barriers with technical standards. Applied Ergonomics, 88, 103144. Doi:
KTE activities: Carrier, R., Chevailier, G., Meyers, R., Poirier, P., Yazdani, A. (2020, October 7). Introducing the New CSA D500:20 Ergonomic Design for Ambulances and Related Equipment Standard: Benefits and Application for Paramedics. Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Bruce, G., Fischer, S., Yazdani, A., (2020, November 2). Implementation Implications of the New CSA D500:20 Ergonomic Design for Ambulances and Related Equipment Standard: From Operations to the Front Line. Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Du, B. (2020, November 24). Improving Design for Ambulances Using an Ergonomic Lens: Lessons Learned. Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Amin Yazdani, Steven Fischer. (2019). Inclusion of HFE Principles in the Development of a National Design Standard for Ambulances. International Scientific Conference on Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (PREMUS), Bologna, Italy.
Bronson Du, MSc
Canadian Work Disability Management System Standard
Funding agency: Canadian Standards Association
Key project partners: Canadian Standards Association
Project description: Every year, tens of thousands of Canadians become disabled and are unable to work, thereby becoming excluded from the numerous health advantages of workforce participation. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians aged 15 and older had one or more disabilities in 2017. The annual cost of work disability is estimated to be very significant for employers and society as a whole. The true economic burden is substantially high, given that many working age adults with disabilities who can and want to work are not connected to workplaces and are often not counted as part of the labour force.
Reducing work disability is best achieved by targeting the social, insurance, workplace and individual barriers to work. Effective strategies to reduce work disability include workplace interventions such as work accommodation and return-to-work coordination. There are many benefits of having formal policies and procedures for workplace accommodation and for hiring and retaining workers with disabilities such as shorter work absences, higher levels of worker engagement, increased productivity workforce morale and reduced turnover. Therefore, organizations need a way of taking best practices from the work disability prevention management field and incorporating them into their operations.
This project aims to develop and promote a Work Disability Management System Standard that will help increase the capacity of employers to systematically manage work disability prevention activities. A standard in this area could help create better, safer, more sustainable workplaces and lessen productivity costs due to work disability by helping organizations implement work disability prevention best practices into their management system. This is a multi-stakeholder initiative involving labour/worker representatives, employers, occupational health and safety organizations, academics, educators, government, injured workers and disability groups.
Canadian Work Disability Management System Standard (CSA Z1011:20)
Webinar series to promote the uptake of the standard
Rapid Guideline to Address the Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 Among Canadian Paramedics
Funding agency: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program
Our key project partners: CSA Group, Paramedic Association of Canada, Paramedic Chiefs of Canada, Public Services Health and Safety Association, County of Renfrew Paramedic Service, Alberta Health Services, and OPSEU Local 277 Peel Paramedics
Project description: COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization. For millions of Canadians, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people live, work, and interact within their communities. Frontline healthcare workers, such as paramedics, have risen to the challenge, playing a vital role in maintaining public health and safety, and responding to calls, in the face of the COVID-19 health crisis. Paramedics, however, are a high-risk worker group for developing mental health injuries due to a unique set of stressors. Paramedic service organizations have expressed their concern that the COVID-19 pandemic will be an additional significant stressor for their frontline staff, further increasing the prevalence and severity of mental health injuries. They may also face challenges with staffing and service capacity because of absenteeism due to illness, quarantine, anxiety, concern over personal safety or safety of family members, or poorly equipped safety measures. Hence, effective prevention and management of mental health injuries require that paramedic service organizations apply harmonized and evidence-informed tools and guidelines to support their staff during a public health crisis. However, these tools and guidelines are absent, and are highly desired to support the mental health and wellness of paramedics, and ultimately to support the capacity required in maintaining the health and safety of the public they serve.
This project aims to rapidly mobilize solutions and expertise to develop a rapid guideline for the paramedic community to prevent and manage mental health injuries during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The guideline will be a great tool for paramedic community to prepare for future public health crises.
Bronson Du, MSc
National Survey on the Physical and Mental Health Effects of Working from Home: How do we Protect Canadians’ wellbeing?
Project partner: La Trobe University, Australia
Project description: On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since this announcement, working from home has become a necessary measure to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19. Millions of Canadians have had the way they live, work, and interact with their communities suddenly and significantly change. According to Statistics Canada over 4.6 million Canadians continued to work from home (WFH) as of July 2020. Coupled with Statistics Canada’s report that 25 percent of businesses indicated they were likely to maintain a WFH mandate following the pandemic, it is clear the Canadian workforce is, and will continue to experience a large and permanent shift in the way we work.
WFH has been associated with a host of health and wellbeing challenges and can affect work outcomes. There is mixed evidence of WFH arrangements on individual work outcomes, including job autonomy, turnover, satisfaction, work-family balance, motivation, and productivity. Despite some evidence of advantages of WFH arrangements, a recent gender-focused analysis revealed that women were less likely to experience improved health outcomes from WFH arrangements.
As the Canadian workforce continues to WFH, it is imperative that we understand the effects that such arrangements can have on the health and wellbeing of our employees. The objective of this project is to examine the effects that WFH has on the mental and physical wellbeing of the Canadian workforce. This nationwide survey will help develop strategies and guidelines to assist workplaces in better managing their WFH workforce. The project is being conducted in parallel with a national survey led by La Trobe University in Australia which will allow a cross-national analysis of the impacts of WFH.
Publication: Hackney, A., Du, B., Yung, M., Yazdani, A. (2020).
Brief report of initial key findings: National work from home survey – The impacts of working from home on physical and mental health of Canadians (pdf). Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON
Amy Hackney, PhD
Impacts of Work from Home on Performance and Productivity
Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Key project partners: La Trobe University; University of Toronto
Project description: With nearly 5 million Canadians in a work from home (WFH) arrangement as a necessary measure to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, it is essential to understand the impact that WFH has on workers and their organizations.
WFH has been associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes such as stress, boredom and long hours, and research has indicated that women are less likely to benefit from a WFH arrangements. Evidence also suggests that the relationship between WFH and personal and organizational performance is complex and its impact on various individual-level and organizational-level outcomes is unclear.
There is a need for formalized organizational policies, particularly for mandatory WFH arrangements, to support the health and wellbeing of employees. Unfortunately, organizational policies supporting the health of employees in WFH arrangements are traditionally considered health and safety matters, with restricted resources and limited influence. However, given that organizational and individual performance and productivity receive more resources and attention at a managerial level, aligning WFH with the business goals of organizations may help catalyze awareness from decision makers and more effectively implement WFH policies.
This project aims to improve support for workers in response to the new challenges of WFH by fostering a broader understanding of the impact that WFH arrangements have on workers and their organizations. By investigating the impact of WFH on personal and organizational performance and productivity, we will help identify the factors that contribute or enhance this relationship and assist in informing the development of organizational strategies to prepare employers to create effective, resilient and inclusive WFH policies.
Amy Hackney, PhD
Empowering the Frontline Workforce to Combat COVID-19: Infrastructure to Cultivate a Community of Practice
Funding agency: Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
Project description: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant stressor for the Canadian workforce and businesses. Recent studies revealed that there are limited harmonized and evidence- informed tools, guidelines, and resources to support Canadian’s organizations in protecting the physical and mental health of their workforce during public health crises. The focus of this project is to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian workforce and support the sustainability of Canadian businesses through cultivating a community of practice between key stakeholders.
The CFI infrastructure includes an interactive communication system to collaborate and engage with a nation-wide audience of researchers, policy makers, employers, employees, unions, professional associations, and other end-users, to develop, evaluate, and disseminate research. The CFI infrastructure will enable us to foster a community of practice to conduct and transfer knowledge from several research projects spearheaded by the Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP) and Conestoga College.
Baseline Study on Organizational Readiness for the Adoption of Standards on Workplace Impairment
Funding agency: Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group)
Project description: Impairment in the workplace could be due to fatigue, crises at home, substance use, caregiving responsibilities, experiences of sexual harassment or bullying, and others. Regardless of the cause, impairment in the workplace can raise several concerns, including increased costs, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and workplace morale, as well as safety concerns. Hence, organizations should have strategies to address impairment in the workplace.
A voluntary standard was recently developed “to specify requirements and provide guidance on activities required to manage impairment in the workplace in accordance with principles consistent with occupational health and safety management systems.” The unique approach makes that standard applicable to organizations of all sizes, within all industry sectors. However, there may be certain nuances between organizational sizes and industries that need to be taken into consideration to optimize uptake and adoption of the standard. For example, small businesses often have limited resources and expertise to develop and effectively implement important occupational health and safety policies and procedures, and it is no different when it comes to addressing impairment in the workplace. We aim to understand the specific barriers across industries and business sizes to better support them in implementing the standard.
Bronson Du, MSc
Disclosing a Mental Health Condition in the Workplace
Funding agency: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Key project partners: Study & Research Centre in Mental Health & Work, UQAM, Université de Montréal, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and a wide variety of supported employment programs in Ontario and Quebec
Project description: Job tenure is a significant issue for individuals with a severe mental disorder (e.g., schizophrenia), as successful employment and the economic self-sufficiency it provides are important for recovery. Supported employment (SE) programs are recognized as evidence-based practices to help people with severe mental disorders (SMD) obtain competitive employment. However, job tenure for people with SMD is often brief, with studies showing that nearly half of all clients leave or lose their employment within six months. One of the best predictors of job tenure for individuals with SMD is the implementation of work accommodations in the workplace. However, accessing accommodations in the workplace requires disclosure of the psychiatric condition, and fear of stigma may lead employees to choose not to disclose. Decision-making about disclosure at work is thus a complex process, as disclosing can have both positive (e.g., work accommodations) and negative (e.g., stigma) outcomes. We will specifically be exploring disclosure to the immediate supervisor, as the supervisor plays a significant role in the implementation of work accommodations and relevant employment outcomes (e.g., job tenure).
The specific objectives of the study are:
- To assess the antecedents and outcomes of disclosure decision in the workplace
- To assess the influence of personal, and organizational variables on the disclosure decision considering demographic variables
- To assess the impact of the disclosure decision on work accommodations, stigma, work productivity, job satisfaction, and job tenure, including significant predictors of disclosure decisions
- To develop an in-depth understanding of the disclosure process, including disclosure needs, values, and goals, and disclosure events.
Dr. Kate Toth, CHRL
Triple Burden to Third Shift: The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Mothers’ Navigation of Multiple Roles
Project description: As the COVID-19 pandemic caused worldwide lockdowns, millions of families had their entire lives shifted to their homes, often with work for one or both partners and schooling now occurring within that sphere. This pandemic has had a greater impact on women compared to men for a variety of reasons. Approximately 75% of unpaid care and domestic work is done by women and girls worldwide and based on calculations by the International Labor Organization (ILO) women perform on average almost 4.5 hours of care work a day (pre-pandemic) compared to 1.5 hours for men following along the lines of traditional gendered social norms.
There has been some suggestion that the unprecedented movement to working from home for both parents may actually result in positive shifts towards more equal distribution of divisions of labour within the home. While evidence does suggest that there has been a narrowing of the gender gap in time spent on unpaid work, time allocation studies in a number of countries during the pandemic have already demonstrated that women have disproportionately taken on these additional burdens compared to their male partners. Multiple studies have documented the negative impact of these additional burdens on women's mental health and work-life balance satisfaction. To our knowledge, there is no research in Canada exploring the experiences of working mothers during the COVID-19 lockdown and following.
We will conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a sample of approximately 30 working mothers and 10 organizations in Canada. Our research questions centre on the experience of mothers in balancing paid and unpaid work and the policies and practices of organizations in supporting employees, particularly women, in maintaining productivity and employment while fulfilling family obligations during and following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dr. Kate Toth, CHRL