What do employers spend to protect the health of workers?
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Objective This study aimed to estimate firm-level expenditures on occupational health and safety (OHS) for a representative sample of Canadian employers. Methods A cross-sectional survey of 334 employers with ≥20 employees in 18 economic sectors in the Ontario economy. Participants provided information on five dimensions of OHS expenditures: (i) organizational management and supervision; (ii) staff training in health and safety; (iii) personal protective equipment; (iv) professional services and, (v) estimates of the share of new capital investment that could be attributed to improved OHS performance. Expenditures for each of the five dimensions were summed for each organization and divided by the number of employees, resulting in an estimate of OHS expenditure per employee per year. Results The average OHS expenditure per worker per year was Can$1303 [95% confidence interval (CI) Can$1167-1454]. Expenditures were three times higher in the goods-producing sectors (Can$2417, 95% CI Can$2026-2809) relative to the service sectors (Can$847, 95% CI Can$777-915). The proportion of expenditures allocated to each of the five dimensions was generally consistent across economic sectors: 58% to organizational management and supervision, 22% to staff training in health and safety and 14% to personal protective equipment. On average, <5% of OHS expenditures per worker per year were allocated to professional services or estimated as the share of new capital investment attributed to OHS. Conclusions Employer expenditures on OHS are substantial. The results of this study are consistent with recent European estimates and strengthen understanding of the scale of employer financial expenditures to protect the health of workers.
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