According to a recent insurance company survey, Canadian workers tend to downplay the likelihood that they will become disabled because of an on-the-job injury. That tendency worries some safety experts, because they feel that workers who are unaware of the potential consequences may be more likely to take an unwarranted risk while on the job.
According to the survey, 45 per cent of Canadian workers believe disability is something that is relatively rare, and they tend to only see it as something that results from a workplace catastrophe. In reality, Statistics Canada says that one out of every seven Canadians are currently disabled, and one out of every four Canadian workers will experience a disability period that lasts more than 90 days at some point during their working lives.
Part of the problem seems to be a disconnect between definitions of “disability.” For example, most Canadians in the survey (72 per cent) consider physical accidents and workplace-related accidents (64 per cent) to be a disability, but fewer than half (45 per cent) consider depression to be a disability. Just as troubling, fewer than one-third of respondents said they believe that anxiety (30 per cent) and diabetes (21 per cent) are disabilities.
Experts find it troubling that most Canadian workers think only physical catastrophes can become disabilities, especially since fewer than 10 per cent of all disabilities are caused by accidents. They don’t seem to recognize that common, chronic conditions, such as those caused by noise, vibrations, exposure to chemicals or even mental illness, cause the vast majority of disabilities. This makes workers less likely to take measures designed to reduce these chronic conditions seriously enough to prevent them, and also makes them less likely to take risks and hazards seriously.