Building construction employer association develops OHS assessment and referral tool

Benjamin C. Amick III, professor and chair of the department of health policy and management at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, has worked with the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) to develop INDICATOR, an assessment and referral tool that will improve job safety in construction. Amick is a senior scientist at IWH, based in Toronto, Canada, and was the principal investigator on the project.

The Construction Safety Association of Manitoba (CSAM), which provides education, training and consulting on occupational health and safety (OHS) to the building construction sector in the Canadian province of Manitoba, partnered with IWH to develop a tool to improve overall safety among its 7,000 members. The goals of the tool are to let workplaces a) measure their safety culture, b) assess their health and safety leading indicators and c) compare their health and safety performance with that of industry peers. The result is the dashboard.

According to Amick, OHS benchmarks have to be scientifically credible to be useful, and that was where IWH expertise came in.

Amick’s IWH team contributed to INDICATOR in two ways. First, the team worked with CSAM to develop the survey questions based on the IWH’s leading indicators, including its Organizational Performance Metric (IWH-OPM). That’s the set of eight questions developed in consensus by a team of health and safety professionals representing the breadth of Ontario’s prevention system. Those eight questions, which have been tested for validity and reliability, have also been found to be linked to workers’ compensation claims rates in two Canadian provinces: in an Ontario sample of 600 workplaces and a New Brunswick sample of 250 workplaces. Higher IWH-OPM scores were linked to lower rates of workers’ compensation claims.

Second, the IWH team brought its expertise to the building of benchmarks specifically designed for Manitoba’s building construction sector. Between January and October 2018, the team recruited about 900 building construction employers to complete the survey. Drawing on its analysis of all firms covered by WCB Manitoba, the province’s workers’ compensation board, the team assigned weights to survey responses to ensure the benchmark sample is representative of the building construction industry in the province.

“That was what differentiates this benchmark from many benchmarks in the market that are essentially data that consulting firms have accumulated over the years,” says Amick. “We don’t know whether those data are representative of all employers within a sector or all regions within a jurisdiction.”

The recruitment took quite a bit of time and effort, says Amick, noting that 90 per cent of building construction firms in Manitoba are small firms of fewer than 20 employees or very small firms of fewer than five. “The very small firms are usually excluded from benchmarks. They’re hard to get; they’re very busy. They’re one- or two-person shops, and they don’t have time to answer the phones or complete surveys.”

The rare inclusion of very small firms in this INDICATOR benchmark is important because, as the team learned in its analysis of survey responses, “the very smalls look very different from everyone else,” says Amick. For example, the very small firms don’t have a lot of injuries, but when they do, their injury rates skyrocket because they have so few people on staff, he notes.

“Building construction companies that use this benchmark can be confident that they are comparing themselves with their peers—in terms of subsectors and size—and that the overall profile of the benchmark is representative of the industry in Manitoba,” says Amick. “What we have in INDICATOR is an evidence-based resource unique to building construction employers in Manitoba that they can use to improve their performance by assessing how they manage their broader health and safety issues.”

Click here to read the full article by the IWH.

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