Establishing an Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) for Ontario

Status: in progress


This project will launch a new system for occupational health surveillance through the linkage of existing administrative databases. The Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) will follow Ontario workers to identify risks of cancer, other chronic diseases and other health conditions. ODSS will provide timely information about existing and emerging work-related health risks through the linkage of existing health data sources.


Although Canada captures very good information about medical diagnoses in administrative health records, there is no way to determine where these patients worked or whether their health condition might be related to a workplace exposure. ODSS aims to overcome this challenge, which has limited our ability to identify and monitor work-related health risks, by using data linkage methods to identify jobs and work-related factors that can pose health risks to Ontario workers.

Expanding on a 2014 pilot project linking Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims to Ontario Cancer Registry records, this project includes additional follow-up and additionally links to hospital, ambulatory care and medical billing records to identify work-related risks for health outcomes in addition to cancer.


When workers make claims to the WSIB for time lost due to injury or disease, their claims contain information about their occupations and industries. These claims can be linked to health records to compare risks across different occupations and industries. This approach can be useful for identifying high-risk jobs or workplace hazards that can be targeted with risk reduction efforts.

In addition to establishing a novel approach for occupational disease research, this project aims to translate ODSS-generated information into evidence-based prevention strategies to reduce workplace hazards through project engagement with occupational health and safety partners.


ODSS will be used to identify existing and emerging occupational risks for disease. This system could allow researchers to identify previously unknown work-related risks including previously unknown industrial chemicals. ODSS will enable rapid assessment of existing and emerging risks associated with various jobs in Ontario, and will highlight at-risk groups that should be targeted with risk-reduction strategies.

Progress (updated May 2019):

Created in 2017, the ODSS captures information for more than 2 million Ontario workers. The system is being used to examine associations between occupation and industry and 28 cancer sites and 9 non-malignant health outcomes, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis, silicosis, acute myocardial infarction, dermatitis, Raynaud’s syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Research manuscripts assessing the link between workplace and lung cancer, breast cancer and asthma have been published. A number of other papers focusing on additional health outcomes are currently under review.

A website dedicated to OCRC’s Occupational Disease Surveillance Program, which includes the ODSS, launched in 2019. To learn more, visit



This project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Enhanced Surveillance for Chronic Disease Program and by the Ministry of Labour.

Research Team:

Paul Demers (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Christopher McLeod (University of British Columbia)
Alice Peter (Cancer Care Ontario)
Leon Genesove (Ministry of Labour)
Jill MacLeod (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Jeavana Sritharan (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Chloe Logar-Henderson (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Sharara Shakik (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Mamadou Dakouo (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Nathan DeBono (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Natalie Troke (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, Dalla Lana School of Public Health)
Selena Hussain (Occupational Cancer Research Centre, Dalla Lana School of Public Health)
Hunter Warden (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)