Evaluation of prevention strategies for reducing the burden of cancer in the Ontario construction industry

Status: in progress

Purpose:

This study will estimate the number of future cancers being generated by current exposures in the Ontario construction industry, and evaluate a series of prevention strategies in terms of their costs, benefits, feasibility, and impacts on the future burden of occupational cancer (including deaths, illnesses, and economic costs).

The study is a collaboration between many groups with diverse knowledge of the construction industry, including Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA), and the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), as well as researchers from the OCRC, University of British Columbia, the Institute for Work & Health, and Ryerson University.

Background:

The construction industry has long been considered a high hazard industry. Construction workers are at increased risk of serious or fatal injuries. However, workers in the construction industry also have an increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases due to a large number of occupational exposures. According to CAREX Canada, the top five carcinogens among Ontario construction workers are solar radiation (121,000 workers exposed), silica (87,000), wood dust (50,000), asbestos (48,000), and diesel engine exhaust (28,000), with smaller numbers exposed to many other metals (e.g. welding fumes) and chemicals (e.g. solvents in paint, fumes from road paving).

Methods:

This study will consist of three major activities:

  1. Estimate the future burden of occupational cancer in the Ontario construction industry, including associated economic costs based on current exposure levels.
  1. In collaboration with stakeholders, identify priority exposures and feasible prevention strategies for each exposure. Costs for implementation and expected reduction in exposure levels will also be estimated.
  1. Produce alternate estimates of the future burden of cancer, including associated economic costs, assuming the adoption of each prevention measure in order to evaluate the cost-benefit of the prevention measures.

This project is modelled after a very successful European Union project, SHEcan.

A key aspect of this study is the collaboration with construction sector and health and safety partners. The study partners are well placed to identify prevention strategies that can be implemented in the Ontario context as well as identifying costs and barriers to implementation. The results will be discussed in a multi-stakeholder industry meeting to explore priorities for specific prevention initiatives.

Implications:

This study will identify prevention options for the Ontario construction sector. As well, it will estimate the future burden in the construction industry if no reductions in carcinogen exposure occur, as well as under several alternate scenarios where prevention measures are implemented and exposure is reduced. This information can be used immediately to set prevention priorities and will provide a mechanism for comparing the costs and benefits of differing prevention measures.

Progress:

The OCRC is currently leading a project to assess the current burden of occupational cancer based on historical carcinogen exposure in Canada (the Burden of Occupational Cancer in Canada study). The findings from this project will be used as a starting point for the analysis of future occupational cancer burden in the construction industry.

Funding:

Funding for this study has been received from the Ministry of Labour Research Opportunities Program.

Investigators and collaborators:

Paul Demers
Victoria Arrandale
Emile Tompa (IWH)
Hugh Davies (UBC)
Thomas Tenkate (Ryerson)
Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario
Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario
Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
Joanne Kim
Kate Jardine