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Ontario Names World Renowned Expert to Lead Review On Occupational Cancers

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Ontario Names World Renowned Expert to Lead Review On Occupational Cancers

Launching Occupational Disease and Illness Prevention Strategy

Ministry of Labour

TORONTO - Ontario's Government for the People is launching a review of occupational cancer to help ensure that best practices and the most up-to-date information are considered with respect to compensation. 

The government has engaged internationally recognized expert Dr. Paul Demers through Cancer Care Ontario to conduct the review and report back to the Ministry of Labour by the end of the year.

The review will address and provide recommendations on three basic questions: 

  • How can scientific evidence best be used in determining whether a cancer is work related, particularly in cases of multiple exposures?  
  •  Are there any best practices in other jurisdictions that Ontario should consider adopting?
  • As scientific evidence evolves around occupational cancer, what criteria should the Ministry of Labour consider in developing legislative policy?

The review and recommendations will also help the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) with important advice as it reviews occupational disease claims.

"Occupational cancers must be treated with the same seriousness and importance as physical injuries," said Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour. "This review will help guide us going forward."

Dr. Demers is Director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Ontario and also a Professor at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health. As well, he is Senior Scientist, Prevention, Screening & Cancer Control, with Cancer Care Ontario.

"I am very happy to lead this review. There is a growing awareness that workplace chemicals and radiation are an important cause of cancer.  While recognition of individual cases can be challenging, it is important that we move forward using the best and most up-to-date scientific evidence," Dr. Demers said upon the review's launch.

Commenting on the appointment Linn Holness, Division Head of Occupational Medicine at St. Michael's Hospital said, "Dr. Paul Demers is a recognized expert in the field of occupational cancer and is eminently qualified to undertake this review.  I look forward to his recommendations."

The government is also taking action to ensure working Ontarians stay healthy and safe on the job in the future by launching an Occupational Disease and Illness Prevention Strategy.

The ministry is working collaboratively with the WSIB and its Health and Safety Association partners and others to develop a strategy that will:

  • Further our understanding of occupational disease and hazardous substances in the workplace
  • Strengthen workplace protections
  • Build awareness and education among Ontarians about occupational illness prevention
  • Establish partnerships to help improve management of occupational illness in the province. 

"Occupational disease and illness is a very complex issue. The review will give us a clearer picture of how workplace exposures can lead to occupational cancer and help inform our new prevention strategy to further protect Ontario workers," said Ron Kelusky, Ontario's Chief Prevention Officer.

In support of the strategy, Janet Brown, Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease said, "Building awareness of the connection between work and health is a critical step toward strengthening our prevention efforts. The investment being made by the Ministry of Labour in an Occupational Disease and Illness Prevention Strategy is timely and extremely important." 

Quick Facts

  • In Ontario, more workers die from occupational diseases than workplace incidents. In 2017, 146 workers died from work related illness while 81 died from traumatic injuries.
  • The most common occupational diseases leading to fatality claims are mesothelioma, lung and bronchial cancers, and asbestosis.
  • The costs of occupational disease and illness are very high. In a study led by the Institute for Work and Health published in 2017, it was revealed that the average costs (direct and indirect) of a worker’s compensation claim for mesothelioma in Ontario is $532 844, including survivor benefits.

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