Designing exposure registries for improved tracking of occupational exposure and disease

Victoria H. Arrandale, Stephen Bornstein, Andrew King, Timothy K. Takaro, Paul A. Demers


OBJECTIVES: Registries are one strategy for collecting information on occupational exposure and disease in populations. Recently leaders in the Canadian occupational health and safety community have shown an interest in the use of occupational exposure registries. The primary goal of this study was to review a series of Canadian exposure registries to identify their strengths and weaknesses as a tool for tracking occupational exposure and disease in Canada. A secondary goal was to identify the features of an exposure registry needed to specifically contribute to prevention, including the identification of new exposure–disease relationships.

METHODS: A documentary review of five exposure registries from Canada was completed. Strengths and limitations of the registries were compared and key considerations for designing new registries were identified.

RESULTS: The goals and structure of the exposure registries varied considerably. Most of the reviewed registries had voluntary registration, which presents challenges for the use of the data for either surveillance or epidemiology. It is recommended that eight key issues be addressed when planning new registries: clear registry goal(s), a definition of exposure, data to be collected (and how it will be used), whether enrolment will be mandatory, as well as ethical, privacy and logistical considerations.

CONCLUSIONS: When well constructed, an exposure registry can be a valuable tool for surveillance, epidemiology and ultimately the prevention of occupational disease. However, exposure registries also have a number of actual and potential limitations that need to be considered.


Registries; occupational exposure; exposure registries; surveillance

Full Text: