Why is the Association necessary?
The bulk of Canadian adult life is occupied by work. Thus, disabilities and illnesses linked to working activities can have a serious impact, both on the individual and on Canadian society as a whole. In 1998, 377,000 workers in Canada received compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses and there is good evidence that this is only the tip of the iceberg of illness related to work. Health Canada has estimated the annual cost for loss of productive time from short and long-term disability and early mortality to be over $44 billion (Health Canada, Economic burden of illness in Canada, 1993). Estimates from other sources suggest that about half this is directly due to illness and injury associated with work.
The nature of work has changed dramatically in recent decades and new approaches to maintaining and promoting wellness for Canadians in the workforce are needed. The physical and emotional stresses of work and changes in the organization of work have joined chemical and biological agents as subjects requiring urgent research and policy attention. Research on health and wellness related to work is carried out at the micro and macro levels, from basic biomedical research on toxic mechanisms of chemical, biological, and physical agents to studies focusing on the organization and management of work and its impact on health.
Research on prevention and rehabilitation encompasses disciplines from engineering, management, ergonomics, law, economics, psychology and other social sciences, as well as the more traditional health disciplines. In short, research on work-related health, safety, and wellness includes investigations of the complete range of social and physical environments in which we lead our working lives, and the evaluation of interventions to prevent or reduce the ill effects of work on health. Yet, work-related health research and researchers do not have a high profile in Canada and are not currently represented at the national level.
The Canadian Association for Research on Work and Health was founded in Montreal on January 12, 2001 to address this omission by providing a forum for interchange between researchers and by advocating, on the national level, for strategies to prevent work-related illnesses and to promote research related to work and health.