safety-reporter.com
Sep 4, 2015

Unionized construction workplaces have lower rates of lost-time injury claims: Study

But higher rates of total claims

Workers at unionized construction workplaces in Ontario are more likely to than their non-unionized counterparts to file job-related injury claims, but less likely to file injury claims that result in time off work, finds a study by the  Institute for Work and Health (IWH).

Unionized construction workplaces have 13 per cent higher rates of total injury claims, both allowed and now allowed, as well as 28 per cent higher rates of allowed no-lost-time injury claims. 

On the other hand, there are 14 per cent lower rates of allowed lost-time claims  that involve missed days of work and eight per cent lower rates of musculoskeletal injuries, found the study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

When not adjusted for firm size, the results show unionized firms have 13 per cent higher rates of total injury claims, 35 per cent higher rates of no-lost-time claims, 23 per cent lower rates of lost-time claims, and 17 per cent lower rates of musculoskeletal injuries. However, adjusting for firm size takes into account that larger firms, both unionized and non-unionized, may have greater resources to devote to injury prevention and post-injury work accommodation.

“These findings suggest to us that unionized workers may be more likely to report injuries, including injuries that don’t require time off work, at workplaces where managers and supervisors are committed to safety,” said IWH senior scientist Ben Amick, co-lead investigator on the study.

While unionized workers may be more inclined to make work-related injury claims, findings suggest that their claims are less likely to be of a serious nature, he said.

“The lower rates of lost-time claims might also suggest that unionized workplaces are safer,” said IWH associate scientific director Sheilah Hogg-Johnson and project co-lead. “It could be they do a better job educating workers, in part through apprenticeship training. They may have more effective health and safety programs and practices. They may give workers more voice to influence the health and safety of their work environments, and to report not only injuries, but also near-misses.”

Other factors may be that unionized workers are older and more experienced at working safely and are better at offering employees modified work the day after an injury, said Amick.

“Our research doesn’t allow us to say what explains the difference in claim rates between the unionized and non-unionized firms,” said Hogg-Johnson. 

For this study, the research team analyzed seven years of injury claims data (2006 to 2012 inclusive) for 5,800 unionized firms employing 720,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers and 39,000 non-unionized firms employing 810,000 FTEs.