Job Quality Indicators » Work Environment

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Fear of Occupational Injury

In 1998, more than 750,000 Canadian workers were injured on the job - that’s one in every 18 workers. Moreover, the total number of workdays lost in 1998 as a result of occupational injury was six times higher than the total number of days lost due to strikes and lockouts. To be sure, working in an environment where one is safe from foreseeable and avoidable danger is an important indicator of a good job.

 

One In Eight Workers Worried About Suffering a Workplace Injury in 2000

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

As the chart shows, roughly one in eight Canadian workers reported that the fear of injuring themselves at work had caused them anxiety during 2000, with men being somewhat more likely than women to report this to be the case.

The fear of being injured is consistent across all age groups, with the exception of those 55 and older. Although young people under the age of 25 were no more likely than their peers to express worry or concern about suffering a workplace injury, young people actually are involved in a disproportionate number of workplace accidents. In 1998 for instance, one third of all occupational injuries occurred to those under the age of 25. Older workers may be less likely to report feeling stressed about the prospect of injuring themselves because of their higher level of experience and a belief that they will be better able to spot potential hazards before it’s too late. It is also likely that the greater experience that older workers bring to the job leads them to behave more cautiously at work. 

 

By Occupation

Blue Collar Workers Most Likely To Worry About Threat of Workplace Injury

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

Those who work in blue-collar occupations were the most likely to report that they were concerned at some point during the year that they might be injured on the job. In fact, one fifth of all blue-collar workers said that they worried about suffering an occupational injury at some point during the year. The heightened level of concern reported by blue-collar workers is not surprising when one considers that a third of all occupational injuries that was serious enough to warrant missing at least one day of work occurred in the manufacturing sector (data not shown). Moreover, blue-collar workers are more likely to work in settings like factories, forestry operations, mines, farms, and construction, often alongside heavy machinery, industrial chemicals, in loud environments, and so on, thereby increasing their odds of being exposed to physically dangerous situations. 

Those in management and clerical occupations were a lot less likely to say that the threat of experiencing an occupational injury was the cause of stress or excess worry at some point during the year. At the same time, we note that the evidence is increasingly showing that changes in the nature of work and in the occupational composition of employment are leading to the emergence of new types of workplace injuries, that consist less of sudden physical trauma, but are more the result of ergonomic stresses and stress related to hours of work, pressure to produce and so on. Injury and the New World of Work, edited by Terrence Sullivan, for instance, examines the changing nature of workplace injuries in Canada. 

 

By Industry

One in Four Transportation / Utilities Workers Are Stressed by Fear of Workplace Accident

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

The fear of being injured at work also varies by industry. For instance, those in transportation and utilities are five times as likely (25 percent) as those in professional services, finance and real estate (5 percent or less) to say that the threat of being injured at work had been the cause of anxiety at some point during the year. And about one in four workers in the health and social services industry and in agriculture, forestry and natural gas experienced job stress as a result of worries about workplace injury.

 

By Weekly Hours

Fear of Job Loss Most Common Among Those in Management Support
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Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

Taking a closer look at the three top-ranking industries, we find that there is a clear relationship between number of hours worked per week in transportation and utilities and in agriculture, forestry and gas, and anxiety about workplace injury. In transportation and utilities, about 18 percent of those working less than 40 hours per week reported having serious concerns about the possibility of being injured on the job. This rose to 30 percent of those who reported working 50 hours per week or more. Similarly, while 16 percent of those working fewer than 40 hours per week in agriculture, forestry and gas reported being concerned about workplace injury, that rose to 22 percent of those working 50 hours or more per week.

Working excessive hours can impair one’s cognitive, concentration and motor skills. It is telling, then, that significantly larger proportions of those working in the utilities alongside heavy machinery or on the road, perceive the risks of workplace accident -- with the real possibility of injury to others in the case of some occupations, like truckers -- to be higher when they work very long hours.

It is also interesting to note that the perception of threat of injury at work in the health and social services industry does not show much variation across hours worked per week. This suggests that the nature of the work in those industries and the characteristics of the working environment may pose a constant level of perceived hazard. 

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