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Ontario to create database to track workplace-related illnesses

The Ontario legislature is pictured at Queen's Park in downtown Toronto in this file photo. (Joshua Freeman /CP24) The Ontario legislature is pictured at Queen's Park in downtown Toronto in this file photo. (Joshua Freeman /CP24)
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The Ontario government is creating a database that will track workplace-related illnesses, something officials say is the first registry of its kind in Canada.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the province said that many workplace illnesses go undiagnosed or are unreported due to a delay between exposure and symptoms.

“While Ontario has one of the strongest health and safety records of any jurisdiction anywhere, too many workers are falling through the cracks when it comes to occupational illness,” said new Minister of Labour David Piccini in a statement.

The Occupational Exposure Registry will track exposures, identify at-risk workers, and improve worker compensation, the government says.

It also has the potential to expand the list of presumptive illnesses in Ontario and help with early diagnoses.

The registry is set to address one of 41 recommendations made in a report commissioned by the government that reviewed the “occupational disease landscape.”

According to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) data, an illness is classified as an occupational disease when there is acute or chronic exposure to chemical, biological or physical agents while at a place of employment. It also includes noise-induced hearing loss.

The Ontario Federation of Labour said in a statement that it supports the government’s proposal to create the registry, citing a study that found less than 10 per cent of Ontarians with occupational cancers get compensated for their illness.

According to WSIB data, the number of allowed occupational disease claims has steadily increased over the last few years. In 2022, there were 40,193 allowed claims—or claims where workers were entitled to benefits—made in Ontario, equalling about $82.5 million in payouts.

A year earlier, there were 33,596 allowed claims.In 2020, 23,402 allowed claims were filed--nearly half of the number for 2022.

So far in 2023, 13,764 allowed claims have been filed.

The province will also create an Occupational Illness Leadership Table made of industry experts and advocates to implement the other report recommendations.

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