The province is creating a new registry to keep track of harmful substances that workers have been exposed to while on the job.
The Occupational Exposure Registry, which is expected to be ready in 2025, will “track harmful exposure levels, help diagnose workplace diseases faster, improve worker compensation, and reduce costs to the health-care system,” according to the province.
Ontario defines occupational illnesses as illnesses resulting from exposure to physical, chemical or biological substances in the workplace, negatively impacting workers’ health.
According to figures provided by the province, in 2022, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) logged 40,185 allowable occupational disease claims totalling $82.5 million.
“Many workplace illnesses currently go undiagnosed or unreported because of the delay between exposure and symptoms, making it difficult to identify occupational disease risks and for workers to get financial support when they fall ill,” the province said in a news release.
“The new registry would include comprehensive exposure records, identify at-risk workers, help with earlier diagnoses, and potentially contribute to expanding the list of presumptive illnesses in Ontario to improve worker compensation.”
The database announced on Tuesday stems from a list of 41 recommendations included in the Occupational Disease Landscape Review, which was released on October 10.
Authored by Dr. Linn Holness and Janet Brown, of the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the report makes recommendations on "workplace prevention and monitoring of occupational disease, health-care delivery, and ways to strengthen connections within the system."
In addition to developing the Occupational Exposures Registry, the list of recommendations includes:
- enhancing workplace training, which includes adding occupational disease to WHMIS training;
- developing best practices for workplace medical screening;
- developing a protocol for identifying clusters of illness and their management;
- expanding training on occupational disease for postgraduate medical students and strengthening training for specialists;
- and working to improve the process of collecting a worker's occupational history.
A summary of the report's recommendations is available here.