Research

CISWP's research program

CISWP adopts a transdisciplinary and collaborative approach to build capacity for productive and sustainable work. Our research program is organized into seven overarching and overlapping research themes:

1. KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER AND EXCHANGE

Knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) is vital for applying research knowledge into practice and decision-making. With immense resources invested into research, the knowledge generated should be readily accessible, available and applicable to knowledge users to use in practice, planning and policy-making. Through ongoing collaboration with stakeholders in all stages of our applied research, including conceptualization, development, execution and reporting, our KTE strategies fulfill the identified needs of knowledge users.

Our research focuses on the:

  • co-creation of (general and industry-specific) evidence-informed standards, guidelines, practices, tools, products, and technologies; and
  • integration of research knowledge into course curricula.
2. MUSCULOSKELETAL HEALTH

CISWP collaborates with stakeholders including employers, workers, not-for-profits, labour/unions, academics, service providers, policy makers and practitioners to reduce the risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD). MSD are injuries that affect muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves caused by exposure to known ergonomic hazards including forceful exertions, repetitive motion, awkward posture and vibration.

In Ontario, MSD in the form of sprains and strains account for 44 per cent of all lost-time claims (WSIB, 2017). CISWP's research aims to reduce the burden of MSD by:

  • understanding the aetiology and pathophysiological mechanisms of MSD;
  • developing effective exposure measurement and risk assessment tools and improving surveillance systems;
  • investigating exposure-response relationships including both physical and psychosocial factors on musculoskeletal health; and
  • developing and evaluating interventions and risk mitigation strategies to prevent MSD among all business sizes and industry sectors.
3. Mental Health and Wellness

Mental health is a state of well-being, where the individual can manage the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and reach her/his potential (MHCC, 2016). Effective workplace strategies for mental health and wellness are critical for productive and sustainable work, and for the prevention and management of mental illness.

Each year, mental illness directly and indirectly costs the Canadian economy at least $50 billion, of which $42.3 billion is spent on health and service care, and $6.4 billion is unrealized due to presenteeism, absenteeism, and labor force exit (MHCC, 2016). These losses in productivity can be reduced by as much as 30 per cent by improving workplace mental health and reducing mental illness (NICE, 2009).

CISWP collaborates with stakeholders to:

  • understand the social and cultural work environments across industries; and
  • develop workplace strategies for the prevention, early detection, intervention, and management of mental illness, and promote workers' well-being.
4. Organizational Management Systems

Organizations are responsible for providing safe working conditions and required to implement strategies to effectively prevent workplace injuries. If these activities are performed within some organizational-level framework, it may be considered a "management system."

Often, health, safety and workplace injury prevention is approached as individual siloed programs, which is not sustainable or effective. It also results in additional human and financial costs and makes isolated programs vulnerable to financial downturns.

Integrating health, safety and workplace injury prevention activities into an organization's overall management system including, but not limited to, the Quality Management System, and avoiding "silos" is highly desirable. This results in better recognition of health and safety issues by stakeholders within organizations, enhances organizational success and overall organizational performance.

CISWP collaborates with stakeholders in conducting cutting-edge research and developing evidence-informed practices to integrate health and safety, and injury and disability prevention into organizational management systems. Other research activities focus on:

  • developing innovative strategies to measure organizational success by defining the relationships and metrics of productivity, performance, quality and sustainability;
  • identifying and minimizing organizational barriers to success for productive and sustainable work; and
  • constructing and refining macro-ergonomic theories to optimize organizational excellence.
5. Disability and Employment

Recent statistics suggest that an estimated 20 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older have one or more disabilities. This limits the daily activity and participation of over 6.2 million Canadians in our workforce.

CISWP addresses this important issue by supporting stakeholders to comply with federal and provincial legislative requirements including Canada's obligations under the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our collaborative efforts with key stakeholders aim to identify key challenges, solutions and opportunities to adopt advanced work disability prevention and wellness management systems that consider supply chain management issues, diverse legal and cultural contexts, and global competitiveness.

These efforts will inform the development of Canadian and International Standards for Work Disability Prevention Management Systems and other related best practices including, but not limited to, evidence-informed practices in work accommodation and return-to-work. In addition, CISWP's goal is to identify and evaluate technologies, equipment, products, tools and services that promote engagement and productivity for different abilities in diverse sectors and occupations.

6. Building the Workforce for Tomorrow

The nature of work has changed and the new form of employment is becoming more flexible and uncertain. It is moving online through extensive development of technology and is becoming borderless.

It is rapidly evolving due to the introduction of robotics, AI technologies and smart machines. Concurrently, the Canadian workforce is aging and becoming more diverse in terms of cultural/ethnic origin, abilities and skill sets.

CISWP conducts research to explore how Canadian employers can best adapt to these changing conditions while ensuring an inclusive, productive and sustainable workforce.

Our research focuses on:

  • addressing the needs of micro and small businesses in preventing workplace injuries and enhancing performance and productivity;
  • addressing broader issues including precarious work, flexible work, and diversity and inclusion by identifying evidence-informed and effective practices. We aim to understand the generalizability, sustainability, and scalability of practices to implement into different contexts, occupations and sectors; and
  • conducting collaborative research to develop and evaluate multi-stakeholder strategies to capitalize on the skills, expertise and knowledge of the ageing workforce, and support a healthy work-to-retirement transition.
7. Designing Work, Products and Environments

Universal design is a concept of designing and promoting products, communications and environments to accommodate human diversity; this includes a broad spectrum of abilities regardless of age, gender, ability or life status.

There are seven principles of universal design:

  1. equitable use,
  2. flexibility in use,
  3. simple and intuitive use,
  4. perceptible information,
  5. tolerance for error,
  6. low physical effort, and
  7. size and space for approach and use (The Center for Universal Design, 1997).

Using these principles, CISWP is committed to advocating and implementing strategies and solutions consistent with universal design. We will adopt a user-centred design approach where we focus on the needs of the user throughout the iterative product life cycle.

Our research focuses on:

  • constructing physical anthropometric databases across different sectors;
  • examining cross-national relationships;
  • developing design standards and guidelines; and
  • conducting iterative usability evaluations to improve product and work environments.

Current research projects

Occupational safety and health research in skilled trades

Skilled Trade Research, Innovation and Education in Occupational Safety and Health (STRIVE OSH)

Funding agency: Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development

Key project partners: Private Sector Businesses and Employer Groups [BrandSafway, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Business Council on Occupational Health and Safety (BCOHS), Melloul-Blamey Construction Inc.], Labour Unions and Trades Associations [Labourer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 506 Training Centre, United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) Local 2222, Wood Manufacturing Council, Skills Ontario], Health and Safety Associations [Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA)]

Status: Ongoing (2021-2024)

Project description: CISWP’s goal is to improve the success and competitiveness of Canadian and Ontario skilled-trade businesses, by directly addressing workforce challenges and preventing workplace injuries and disabilities. There are three pressing needs of the skilled trades industry: a) sustaining the rapidly aging workforce, b) reducing the risk of worker injury, and c) improving job accessibility for underrepresented groups such as women, people with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, and Indigenous peoples. The outcomes of this work will have direct economic and societal impacts for Ontario, will train the next generation of skilled trade workers in the province, and will help industries (particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises) build capacity and assist in promoting business innovation and commercialization.

This project consists of nine interlinked research projects across three themes: a) build capacity of the current and next generation of the skilled trades workforce, b) develop and innovate tools, guidelines, and best practices through applied research, and c) knowledge and technology exchange and exploitation.  

Project 1: Review and evaluate health and safety content of skilled trades training programs at Ontario colleges

Project 2: Create a comprehensive database of job exposure information including requirements and physical demands

Project 3: Evaluate health and safety competency of student/trainee cohorts throughout their training program

Project 4: Identify opportunities for experiential learning of health and safety and create a toolbox of resources for trainers  

Project 5: Create a workforce profile for skilled trade trainees to identify strategies to optimize capabilities with job demands and requirements

Project 6: Understand assistive technology uptake and identify facilitators, barriers, and risks

Project 7: Create a toolbox of existing OSH standards, guidelines, best practices, and resources for skilled trades organizations

Project 8: Provide state-of-the-art knowledge and skills development opportunities through webinars, infographics, and short-term courses

Project 9: Create resources to encourage diverse populations into the skilled trades by highlighting the positive and healthy aspects of skilled trades work

PI: Amin Yazdani, PhD, CSP

CO-PI: Marcus Yung, PhD, CPE

Research team: Bronson Du, MSc; Kumar Somasundram, MSc; Daniel Fournier, MSc

Improving Worker Health and Performance in Construction: Implementation and Adoption of Advanced Technologies

Funding agency: NSERC and SSHRC College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF)

Key project partners: Private Sector Businesses and Employer Groups [Cesaroni Contracting Inc., Clifford Masonary Ltd.,, Melloul-Blamey Construction Inc.], Labour Unions and Trades Associations [Labourer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183, Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO), Brick and Allied Craft Union (BACU) Local 5, Ontario Formwork Association (OFA), United Association Local 46], Health and Safety Associations [Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA)]

Status: Ongoing (2021-2024)

Project description: Canada is experiencing a dramatic shift in its workforce demographic as Canadians are living longer and delaying retirement. Sustaining a rapidly aging workforce is a concern for Ontario's construction industry, which faces two challenges: a) the number of older workers is increasing faster than many other industries and b) construction workers experience a greater risk of injury and disability and the risk of recurring injury is high. Construction injuries are among the most costly across all industries in Ontario. Without intervention, in Ontario alone, the construction industry expects a significant shortage of skilled workers over the next decade. As such, the community has an immediate need to prolong the working life of the aging construction workforce. A promising solution to reducing injury risk is the emerging use of commercially available assistive technologies (AT). Although AT has the potential to be valuable for older workers performing demanding tasks, they are not readily adopted in the construction sector. AT are more likely to be adopted by construction organizations and their workers if they demonstrate advantages such as increased productivity and improved work quality but are less likely to be adopted if they are perceived to be costly. Therefore, providing empirical evidence to support decision making of AT is recognized as an important initiative for its adoption.

Working with our partners in all facets of this research project, we will develop a decision-making toolkit (e.g., Tool Picker and Cost-Benefit Analysis Calculator) for AT that will benefit our partners by: a) reducing the costs of injury claims and lost days by reducing the risk of worker injuries; b) sustaining their older workforce thereby reducing employee shortages and leveraging the skillset of older and experienced workers to help mentor new employees; and c) improving worker productivity by augmenting worker capability to keep these organizations competitive.

This project consists of four main objectives:

Objective 1: Analyze job and task demands, worker demographics, injury rates, and physical job exposures to match specific construction jobs/tasks to appropriate AT

Objective 2: Investigate the impact of AT implementation and determine barriers/facilitators of adoption and adherence through a field study of worker productivity, biomechanical exposures, worker usability, and organizational costs

Objective 3: Improve adoption of adherence of AT by developing a decision-making toolkit using information from Objectives 1 and 2

Objective 4: Launch the decision-making toolkit and disseminate knowledge to the construction sector

PI: Amin Yazdani, PhD, CSP

CO-I: Marcus Yung, PhD, CPE; Kenrick Jordan, PhD

Research team: Bronson Du, MSc; Kumar Somasundram, MSc; Daniel Fournier, MSc

Optimizing work from home

National Survey on the Physical and Mental Health Effects of Working from Home

Project partner: La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Status: Ongoing (2020-2022)

Project description: On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Millions of Canadians have had the way they live, work, and interact with their communities suddenly and significantly change. Working from home has become a necessary measure to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19. The traditional office environment no longer exists in the same capacity it once did and working from home has become mandatory for many. 

As the Canadian workforce continues to WFH, it is imperative that we understand the effects that WFH can have on mental and physical wellbeing. CIWSP led a nationwide survey aimed at understanding these impacts. The study examined the mental and physical effects of working from home and aims to understand how the health and wellbeing of Canadian workforce can be protected. In addition, the results of this national survey will inform the development of organizational strategies to prepare employers to create an effective, resilient, and inclusive WFH workplace; and help catalyze awareness and effectively implement WFH policies by aligning WFH strategies to the business goals of the organization. 

A parallel study was conducted with by La Trobe University in Australia, and together the team hopes to equip organizations with the knowledge and tools necessary to meet the ongoing and future changes to the way we work.  

The national survey was initially deployed between October and December 2020. A follow-up survey was distributed in May 2021. The follow-up survey will determine if and how participants’ experiences have changed over time.

PI: Amin Yazdani, PhD, CSP

PI: Jodi Oakman, PhD

Research team: Amy Hackney, PhD; Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, PhD; Katrina Lambert, PhD; Marcus Yung, PhD

Reports: 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)

Webinars: CISWP YouTube channel

Working in the Digital Economy: A Scoping Review of the Impacts of Work from Home Arrangements on Personal and Organizational Performance and Productivity

Funding agency: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis Grant

Status: Completed (2020-2022)

Project description: Working from home (WFH) has been associated with several physical and mental health outcomes. However, there is no study that have comprehensively reviewed the literature on the impact of WFH arrangements on organizational and personal performance and productivity. Traditionally, from a business and managerial perspective, organizational and individual worker performance and productivity are powerful agendas that receive more resources and attention than is traditionally bestowed on health and safety issues. Aligning WFH with the business goals of organizations may help catalyze awareness from decision-makers and serve to effectively implement WFH policies. The objective of this study is to synthesize current knowledge on the impact of WFH arrangements on personal and organizational performance and productivity.

Major findings: Overall, WFH can have positive impacts on personal and organizational productivity and performance. Productivity and performance appear to be impacted differently in WFH situations that are mandatory, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current literature focuses more heavily on how WFH impacts productivity than performance. Further, there is greater emphasis on the effects at the personal-level compared to the organizational-level. There was large variability in metrics used across studies to evaluate the impact of WFH.

Implications: When developing a WFH program, organizations should keep mind that WFH is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. The positive and negative implications of WFH programs on productivity and performance can vary significantly depending on the type of arrangement (e.g., full-time, part-time, mandatory, or optional). Prior to the pandemic, research on WFH showed positive impacts on both organizational and personal productivity and performance. However, far less conclusive impacts were observed when reviewing WFH during the pandemic. These results suggest external factors (e.g., supervision of children, impacts of lockdowns) should be considered when evaluating the effectiveness of a WFH program when it is mandatory. Setting clear goals and expectations for managing the workload of WFH is imperative, as overworking (i.e., work intensification) can be an issue, particularly in times of public health crises. Our results suggests that organizations should consider creating several types of WFH programs for employees that meet different needs.

PI: Amin Yazdani, PhD, CSP

CO-I: Jodi Oakman, PhD; ; Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, PhD; Marcus Yung, PhD

Research team: Amy Hackney, PhD

Reports: Working in the Digital Economy: A Scoping Review of the Impact from Home Arrangements on Personal and Organizational Performance and Productivity (pdf)

Webinars: CISWP YouTube channel

Peer-reviewed studies: Hackney, A., Yung, M., Nowrouzi-Kia, B., Oakman, J., & Yazdani, A. (2021). Working in the digital economy: A systematic review of the impact of work from home arrangements on personal and organizational performance and productivity. Submitted.

Supporting Canada's frontline

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

Status: Ongoing

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.

Project manager: 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

Status: Ongoing

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2020.105044.

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

Status: Ongoing

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.

Main deliverable: 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: 10.1080/10903127.2019.1568651

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: 10.1016/j.apergo.2020.103144

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.

Project manager: Bronson Du, MSc

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

Status: Ongoing

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.

Publications:

Du, B., Yung, M., Rezvani, S., Hackney, A., Yazdani, A. (2021). Addressing Operational Stress Injuries during Infectious Public Health Crises: A Guide for Paramedic Service Organizations (pdf). Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON

Du, B., Yung, M., Rezvani, S., Hackney, A., Yazdani, A. (2021). Addressing Operational Stress Injuries for Infectious Public Health Crises: A Quick Start Guide for Paramedic Service Organizations (pdf). Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness, & Performance (CISWP). Kitchener, ON

Du, B., Yung, M., Rezvani, S., Hackney, A., Yazdani, A. (2021). Addressing Operational Stress Injuries during Infectious Public Health Crises: Self-Reflection Tool for Paramedic Service Organizations (pdf)

Project Manager: Bronson Du, MSc

Empowering the Frontline Workforce to Combat COVID-19: Infrastructure to Cultivate a Community of Practice

Funding agency: Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

Status: Ongoing

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.

Disability and employment

Canadian Work Disability Management System Standard

Funding agency: Canadian Standards Association

Key project partners: Canadian Standards Association

Status: Completed

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.

Main deliverables: Canadian Work Disability Management System Standard (CSA Z1011:20)

Webinar series to promote the uptake of the standard

Baseline Study on Organizational Readiness for the Adoption of Standards on Workplace Impairment

Funding agency: Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group)

Status: Ongoing

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.

Project manager: 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

Status: Ongoing

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.

Project manager: Dr. Kate Toth, CHRL

Triple Burden to Third Shift: The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Mothers’ Navigation of Multiple Roles

Status: Ongoing

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.

Project manager: Dr. Kate Toth, CHRL