To protect workers and their communities from
occupational disease, injuries and illnesses.
To protect workers and their communities from
occupational disease, injuries and illnesses.
To accomplish this by identifying workplace factors
that damage the health and welfare of all workers.
Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers are dedicated to the identification and prevention of work-related illnesses.
At the core of each clinic is a dedicated staff trained in occupational medicine, who are available to provide medical examinations
for a full range of work-related illnesses.
The clinics are open to anyone with a possible occupational health problem.
Learn more about each service by clicking on the icon, or scrolling down to the dynamic bars below.
A unique service and skillset that attempts to find the workplace link to the disease / illness under investigation
OHCOW staff will answer your questions about workplace health and safety issues. We will provide you with information about:
The OHCOW team can do a walkthrough tour of the workplace. They will point out any health and safety problems and present them to the joint health and safety committee. They can also suggest that someone investigate the problems further.
The following is an example of an Information/Inquiry Service provided by OHCOW:
Violence in the workplace is often not recognized and not reported.
Some group home workers wanted to know which residents might get violent with them. Normally this information would be confidential and the workers would not be told which residents had a history of violence. The workers saw this as a health and safety issue and asked OHCOW for help. In this case, the group home workers’ need for a safe workplace seemed to conflict with the residents’ rights to confidentiality.
OHCOW gave the workers information about:
The workers then contacted the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry issued an order to the employer and the employer developed a workplace violence program. The program includes teaching workers to manage and prevent violence. It also includes information about when certain residents may become aggressive.
OHCOW then held a workshop for other people interested in workplace violence, so that this experience could be used in other workplaces.
Employers, workers, joint health and safety committees (JHSC), and unions may contact OHCOW ergonomists to perform workstation assessments. An OHCOW ergonomist will discuss the request with the representative and determine if it is required and if a worksite assessment can/should be performed.
The actual assessment/education session may take place virtually or by an in-person visit depending on the nature of the request. OHCOW ergonomists focus on prevention and do not perform services related to job suitability or physical demands descriptions (PDD). OHCOW ergonomists can assist with the following:
Depending on the nature of the ergonomic request a report may be generated and recommendations for prevention provided.
An OHCOW nurse will take detailed notes on your work history, your health and what you have been exposed to at work. The nurse will share this information with the OHCOW doctor, who will then examine you and ask you more questions.
The whole OHCOW team will discuss whether your workplace caused your health problem. They will recommend ways to prevent further problems. If you need to be treated, the OHCOW doctor will send you to your family doctor or other treating physician.
Your medical information is confidential. However, if you give your consent, this information will be shared with the joint health and safety committee at your workplace or with others who are helping with your case. This may help prevent your co-workers from getting sick or injured. It will also help identify whether others are already suffering from the same problem as you.
The following are examples of Medical Diagnostic Services that OHCOW has provided:
A claim has recently been accepted for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) in a rubber worker. The worker had been employed for 27 years at a rubber tire factory. He would have been exposed to organic solvent, particularly benzene, as a by-product of the tire manufacturing process. While no direct measures were available from his plant environment, epidemiology review (Van Ert et al, 1980) allowed for estimation of this worker’s historical exposures, in excess of current occupational exposure limits. Further epidemiology was cited on the link between benzene and NHL. The literature included dose-response data; it was shown that this worker’s cumulative exposure to benzene placed him at an elevated risk of NHL. In consideration of this information, WSIB allowed entitlement for this worker’s cancer.
An OHCOW doctor saw several office cleaners from the same workplace. They had skin and breathing problems when they used cleaning products. OHCOW’s occupational hygienist discovered certain types of cleaning products were causing their problems. OHCOW reported its findings and the employer changed the types of cleaning products it used. The workers’ problems were solved.
A printer came to an OHCOW clinic because he had leukemia and wanted to know if it was related to his work. OHCOW’s occupational hygienist took a detailed work history. The printer had been exposed to large amounts of the organic solvent toluene every day at work for over 25 years. Sometimes he handled 3600 pounds per day. Until the early 1980’s, toluene was often contaminated with benzene, which can cause leukemia.
OHCOW’s doctor found that the printer’s cancer was caused by his work. Later, the printer received compensation for his disease.
People who are self employed have work related health problems too. They do not have a joint health and safety committee or workplace experts to help them. They are both the employer and the worker. We help them too.
A self employed potter was sent to an OHCOW clinic by her family doctor because she used cadmium, a heavy metal.
OHCOW’s occupational hygienist toured the potter’s studio and talked to the potter about her work. The hygienist found that, not only was the potter exposed to cadmium, she was also exposed to dangerous amounts of silica. The hygienist’s report suggested safer ways of working including engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation, protective equipment such as a respirator and better housekeeping. An ergonomist showed the potter how to reduce the risk of back, neck and arm injuries in her work.
This potter is also a teacher at a community college. She will share this safety information with her students. OHCOW staff also helped write an article for a national potters’ magazine to share this information.
*As defined by the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA)
Why do we refer to this discipline with the word hygiene? Hygiene comes from the Greek goddess Hygeia. Hygeia was concerned with the preservation of good health and the prevention of disease. Similarly occupational hygienists are concerned with maintaining the body’s homeostasis in a working environment. If there are exposures in the workplace the occupational hygienist is equipped with the knowledge to help mitigate the exposures to the workers while keeping the workplace processes running with proper controls. The concept of homeostasis is to ensure workers can maintain a balanced harmonic steady state condition in the work environment without having to be exposed to chemical, physical, or biological hazards which may insult the homeostasis of the workers, through proper hierarchy of controls.
Clinical Occupational Hygiene practised by Occupational Hygienists at OHCOW is a unique service and skillset offered to OHCOW’s clientele. Clinical Occupational hygiene uses the concept of homeostasis to learn how historic exposures may have caused the imbalance to the homestasis of the patient or group of patients with similar historic exposures. With this information the occupational hygienists attempt to find the workplace link to the disease in question, for which the patient (s) are seeking compensation. The occupational hygienists use their skill set to help uncover the disease-causing agents, through forensic analysis of the workplace history and supportive research that aids in making the link of workplace exposures to occupational disease.
Learn more about Occupational Hygiene at OHCOW
The OHCOW team can do a walkthrough tour of the workplace. They will point out any health and safety problems and present them to the joint health and safety committee. They can also suggest that someone investigate the problems further. During a walkthrough tour, the OHCOW occupational hygienist will watch how the work is done question workers about their symptoms take limited measurements (for example, noise and air flow) make recommendations to improve workplace conditions.
The occupational hygienist will help you understand occupational hygiene sampling reports. They can also help you design sampling strategies.
During a walkthrough tour, an OHCOW ergonomist will watch how the work is done interview workers to understand their concerns and their discomfort measure the dimensions, forces, repetitions and postures of a workstation make recommendations to improve conditions In some cases, doctors and nurses can do medical exams on several people from one workplace. They will look for a connection between the health problems and the workplace conditions.
OHCOW staff can work with the joint health and safety committee to help it understand very technical reports it must deal with. The OHCOW team can also design health questionnaires and administer surveys.
The following are examples of Group Services that OHCOW has provided:
A repetitive strain injury is an injury that happens because you repeat the same type of movement over and over again at your job. This type of injury is very common now because so many people use computers.
Workers at a public library came to OHCOW for help because the new equipment at their workplace seemed to be causing injuries.
OHCOW’s ergonomist assessed the conditions at the library. Then the ergonomist held a workshop for workers from every branch of the library.
Because of the ergonomist’s report, managers changed the way the library work was done. They also bought proper chairs, footrests and adjustable arms for the computer monitors to make the work safer. When a new library was built, they used OHCOW’s report to design a safer workplace. The library workers now understand how to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
Most important, in the first year after these changes were made, no workers lost time from work because of new repetitive strain injuries.
Workers in a copper refinery were concerned about the quality of the air in their workplace and their fatigue. They came to OHCOW for help. Workers and managers formed a committee to look at these concerns. OHCOW’s occupational hygienist worked with the committee and gave advice about how to assess ventilation chemical hazards physical hazards The employer used the results of the ventilation assessment to prevent future problems with the ventilation system. The employer trained certain workers and managers to monitor the ventilation system on an ongoing basis to prevent future problems.
OHCOW also helped identify problems with workers being exposed to magnetic fields and heat stress. As a result, the employer developed better policies and put them to work.
OHCOW staff will speak to your group about health and safety issues. Our goal is to make you aware of health hazards in your workplace so you can avoid illness or injury. We also want to make you aware of all of OHCOW’s services in case you need them. Sometimes we work together with community groups or with other health and safety groups to promote safe workplaces. OHCOW also helps to educate doctors, medical students, nurses and nursing students so they are more aware of workplace health issues.
OHCOW is, and has been involved in, research studies on several different topics. We collect information on different diseases and on the substances workers are exposed to that may cause these diseases. We research for the latest scientific literature on your question. We use this information to write a report that will assist with your situation either as a patient or a workplace representative.
OHCOW is a not-for-profit clinic, funded by the Prevention Office of the Ministry of Labour.
There is no charge for our services.
If you are interested in using OHCOW services, please visit our Referrals page.