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Medical Journal: Unionized Construction Workers 29% Less Likely to Suffer Critical Work Injuries

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A wide-ranging new Canadian study has found that unionized construction workers reported 23 percent fewer injuries that require time off than their non-unionized counterparts.  The study was conducted by the Institute for Work and Health and focused on the years 2006 to 2012. It was published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and is the first peer reviewed Canadian study to investigate union safety in Ontario’s construction industry. 

The study examined Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims from over 40,000 construction firms and found that workers at unionized firms were 17 percent less likely to experience musculoskeletal injuries and 29 percent less likely to suffer critical injuries on the job.  The study also found that while unionized firms filed fewer claims for injuries that required time off, they actually filed more claims for injuries which resulted in “no lost time.”  According to Institute for Work & Health Senior Scientist Dr. Ben Amick, co-lead investigator on the study:

“These findings suggest that unionized workers are encouraged to report injuries, including injuries that don’t require time away from the job.  At the same time, these reporting practices enable construction unions to better identify and proactively manage workplace hazards that lead to injury.”

The journal article suggests that the union safety effect can be explained by the following causes: “more robust specialized apprenticeship, upgrade and safety training requirements for union members; programs and practices that more effectively identify and reduce construction work hazards; a safety net that allows union workers to report accidents without fear of repercussions; ongoing skills training programs that provide a foundation for safer skilled work throughout one’s career; and a more effective role for unions in influencing government regulations designed to improve workplace health and safety.”

Touching on the study’s findings, Sean Strickland, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Construction Secretariat, said in a statement:

“Creating safe and healthy workplaces continues to be a core value of the unionized construction industry in Ontario.  This first-of-its-kind study shows that the union safety effect is having a tangible impact in Ontario’s ICI construction sector and through our investments in safety, specialized training and apprenticeship programs the unionized construction sector in Ontario is showing its commitment to being a leader in worksite safety and productivity.”


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