Labour ministry committing $6M to help track and prevent workplace cancers in Ontario

The Ministry of Labor will provide more than $ 6 million in funding for labor research and employment research, after an expert report found the state lacked the ability to identify and prevent exposure to toxins in the workplace.

The money, which will be channeled to the Occupational Cancer Research Center (OCRC), will also be used to research the causes of occupational cancer and support those suffering from occupational diseases. At present, hundreds of thousands of workers in Ontario face “known or suspected” cancer in the workplace, but only a few receive compensation, available studies show.

Developing the region’s expertise to identify people with a workplace problem was a key element of the government’s expert report under the guidance of the OCRC chief, Dr. Paul Demers. Demers said the new funding would help “restructure and expand” the organization’s occupational health and safety system, the first of its kind to identify high-risk groups.

“The main purpose of this fund is to empower us to get results for the people and organizations affected by the manifestation of the toxicity,” he said.

Cognitive disruption makes it difficult for sick workers and grieving families to pay compensation to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Star research in the past has found employees at GE Peterborough was involved for many years with cancer-causing agents but more often struggled to receive compensation for various types of chronic diseases.

“Speaking to the workers and their affected families, my heart goes out to them,” Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said in a statement.

“The most important thing is this: if employees are ill because of exposure at work, they should have confidence that they will be protected and paid fairly.”

Demers said the new research has helped “more workers,” noting that some groups – such as migrant workers – often “fall into the cracks in our system.”

“They, in particular, need the kind of research that they want the new funding to support so we can contribute.”

Last month, the newly formed Occupational Disease Reform Alliance called on the Ministry of Labor to revise its occupational cancer treatment strategy – in addition to raising a list of job-considered “arrogant” cancers, which could make it easier for workers to receive compensation.

Those ideas also formed part of the Demers report, but the government did not take action.

A Demers study released last year found that the legal risk of cancer at WSIB reaches 2.9 cases of occupational cancer per 100,000 workers – much lower than in other countries. In Germany, for example, the median risk of occupational cancer is 15.1 per 100,000 workers.

Earlier this month, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board also announced the launch of the Scientific Advisory Table on Occupational Disease to help develop policies and compensation for those with work-related incidents.

McNaughton said the new funding for scientific research “will bring more workplace health and well-being.”

“This investment is aimed at ensuring that the (WSIB) has more scientific information and evidence needed to make the right choice.”


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