UBC Researchers Help Save Millions for Health-Care Employers

UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 12 | Dec.
4, 2003

By Hilary Thomson

A team of University of British Columbia researchers has
helped B.C. health-care employers save approximately $51 million
in the past two years, according to a report recently released
by the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare

“Our remarkable success is due to a strong collaboration
of union and management and a unique association with the
research community,” says Annalee Yassi, OHSAH director
and director of UBC’s Institute for Health Promotion

The report cites a drop of 28 per cent in health-care industry
injury rates since 1998, the year OHSAH was conceived, and
a 38 per cent drop in time lost due to injury since 1999.
Without the decreases, health-care employers would have paid
about $51 million more in Workers’ Compensation Board
(WCB) assessment rates over the last two years, says Yassi.

B.C.’s health-care sector accounts for more time lost
from work than any other provincial industry sector, according
to the WCB’s Statistics 2002.

A key intervention has been the use of ceiling lifts to move
patients. Following OHSAH research, the provincial health
ministry and WCB invested $21 million in 2001 toward new bed
and lifting devices. Pilot studies at four sites showed reduction
in lifting injuries of up to 80 per cent. Health-care employers
and unions are implementing use of the lifts province-wide.

OHSAH has also collaborated in interventions that include
a guide to reducing workplace violence, programs to improve
health and safety in kitchens and bagless laundry systems.

“This group provides an important bridge between academic
research and real-life situations,” says Chris Allnutt,
Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager.
“OHSAH analyses what works and what doesn’t and
then takes those theories into the workplace to create interventions
that have been shown to be effective.”

The report marks the end of a five-year mandate for the group.

“We hope that further investment will allow us to continue
this work,” says Yassi, Canada Research Chair in Transdisciplinary
Health Promotion. “Taking care of health-care workers
is absolutely necessary if we want to provide quality patient

Jointly governed by health-care employers and union representatives,
OHSAH includes UBC researchers in faculties ranging from arts
to applied science. The group studies, designs and evaluates
interventions and recommends health improvement strategies.

The report is available at www.ohsah.bc.ca.