Work-attributed Illness Arising From Excess Heat Exposure in Ontario, 2004-2010

Melanie K. Fortune, Cameron A. Mustard, Jacob J.C. Etches, Andrea G. Chambers


OBJECTIVE: To describe the incidence of occupational heat illness in Ontario.

METHODS: Heat illness events were identified in two population-based data sources: work-related emergency department (ED) records and lost time claims for the period 2004-2010 in Ontario, Canada. Incidence rates were calculated using denominator estimates from national labour market surveys and estimates were adjusted for workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Proportional morbidity ratios were estimated for industry, occupation and tenure of employment.

RESULTS: There were 785 heat illness events identified in the ED encounter records (incidence rate 1.6 per 1,000,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) months) and 612 heat illness events identified in the lost time claim records (incidence rate 1.7 per 1,000,000 FTE months) in the seven-year observation period with peak incidence observed in the summer months. The risk of heat illness was elevated for men, young workers, manual workers and those with shorter employment tenure. A higher proportion of lost time claims attributed to heat illness were observed in the government services, agriculture and construction sectors relative to all lost time claims.

CONCLUSIONS: Occupational heat illnesses are experienced in Ontario’s population and are observed in ED records and lost time claims. The variation of heat illness incidence observed with worker and industry characteristics, and over time, can inform prevention efforts by occupational health services in Ontario.


Heat stress disorders; occupational exposure; epidemiology

Full Text: