The Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) for Ontario Workers

Status: in progress

Purpose:

The Occupational Disease Surveillance System (ODSS) was launched in 2016 to detect and monitor risks of cancers, other chronic diseases and acute health outcomes among Ontario workers. The ODSS uses linkage of existing administrative databases to follow a cohort of more than 2.4 million workers from more than 900 industry and occupation groups.

Background:

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. The ODSS aims to overcome this challenge 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.

Methods:

When workers make claims to the WSIB for lost time due to injury or disease, their claims contain information about their occupation and industry of employment. These claims are 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.

Implications:

The ODSS identifies existing and emerging occupational risks for disease. This system allows researchers to detect and monitor trends in disease outcomes among different worker groups, and can be used to identify previously unknown work-related risks. The ODSS supports rapid assessment of risks associated with various jobs in Ontario, and generates evidence to identify at-risk groups that should be targeted with risk-reduction strategies.

Progress (updated February 2021):

Launched in 2016, the ODSS captures information for more than 2.4 million Ontario workers. The system is being used to examine associations between occupation and industry and risk of cancer and other health outcomes, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis, silicosis, acute myocardial infarction, dermatitis, Raynaud’s syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome. In partnership with the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), the ODSS is being expanded to capture opioid-related outcomes. Use of the ODSS to detect COVID-19 risks is being explored.

Resources:

  • A website dedicated to OCRC’s Occupational Disease Surveillance Program, which includes the ODSS, launched in 2019. To learn more, visit www.odsp-ocrc.ca. This website presents ODSS-generated results by health outcome as well as information about workplace risk factors.
  • An interactive data platform created in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) allows users to identify groups of workers at higher risk of occupational disease: www.occdiseasestats.ca. Explore ODSS-generated results by industry for sectors including health care, manufacturing and construction, among others. Information for risks by exposure to particular substances such as silica and asbestos is being added in 2021.

Publications:

Funding:

The ODSS pilot project was funded by the WSIB, and the establishment of the full system was supported by a grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Enhanced Surveillance for Chronic Disease Program. Ongoing activities are supported by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Ministry of Health. The partnership with the CCOHS in the development of the occdiseasestats.ca website is funded by the WSIB.  The project with the IWH to expand the ODSS for opioid event surveillance is supported by a grant from PHAC.

Current Research Team:

Paul Demers
Christopher McLeod (University of British Columbia)
Jill MacLeod
Mamadou Dakouo
Daniel Song
Ashley Lau (practicum student, Dalla Lana School of Public Health)