IDRL 308
Occupational Health and Safety (OCW_Rev. C6)

 

IDRL 308
Occupational Health and Safety (OCW_Rev. C6)

Study Guide

Unit 1 – Occupational Health and Safety: An Introduction

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Introduction

Each day, Canadian workers are injured and killed on the job. In 2014, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) reported 919 occupational fatalities and 239,643 workers injured so badly that they required time off from work to recover (AWCBC, 2016). By reporting only the most serious injuries that were reported to and accepted by workers’ compensation boards, the AWCBC radically understates the true level of work-related injury in Canada (Barnetson, 2012).

photo of two men maneuvering a huge section of pipeline that is held in place by chain attached to an excavator. The excavator is atop a broad, deep ditch in which the men work.

Pipeline installation. Tomas Castelazo (own work), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Job-related dangers are nothing new. To be sent to the mines in ancient Egypt was equivalent to a death sentence. Those who survived accidents or worked long hours in the mine succumbed to lung disorders caused by breathing mine dust (Castleman, 1986).

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments have enacted injury-prevention and injury-compensation laws and programs over time to address the political pressures associated with high levels of workplace injury and fatalities. The effectiveness of these measures turns, in large part, on what happens in individual workplaces.

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments have enacted injury-prevention and injury-compensation laws and programs over time to address the political pressures associated with high levels of workplace injury and fatalities.

This unit provides an overview of occupational health and safety (OHS) and workers’ compensation in Canada. This unit also introduces the basic principles and elements of OHS in Canada, and highlights that safety cannot be disentangled from the power dynamics inherent in the employment relationship. Additionally, this unit examines common perspectives on safety and the causes of injury, and how which perspective you adopt shapes how you might address safety issues in the workplace.

After completing this unit, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are the major stakeholders in OHS systems, and what are their rights, duties, obligations, and interests?
  2. What are the key principles, components, and issues of contemporary OHS?
  3. How and why did governments come to intervene in the worker-employer relationship regarding issues of workplace safety and injury?
  4. What are some of the common frames for OHS, and what consequences do they have for how safety is handled in the workplace?