IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Comparative Analysis of the Work Context and Statistical Portrait of Occupational Health and Safety Problems in Relation to Enterprise Size


According to Statistics Canada, 33.1% of Québec employees and 31.3% of Canadian employees were working in small enterprises with 49 paid employees or fewer in 2015. Small enterprises (SEs, also referred to as small businesses) constituted 95% of all employer businesses in Québec and Canada in 2016. Several international scientific results document the fact that risk control in small enterprises is less effective than in medium-sized and large enterprises, and that the risk of industrial accidents and occupational diseases for workers is also higher in small businesses. In particular, it has been observed that the lack of in-house resources in small enterprises results in reduced capacities, and has an effect on working and safety conditions and on management of occupational health and safety (OHS).

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) data are insufficient to provide a portrait of compensated occupational injuries in relation to enterprise size in Québec. Other data sources therefore have to be used to fill this information gap. Data from the Enquête québécoise sur des conditions de travail, d’emploi et de santé et de sécurité du travail (EQCOTESST, or Québec Survey on Working and Employment Conditions and Occupational Health and Safety (2007-2008)), collected from 5,000 workers and describing several aspects of the work context and enterprise size, offer interesting analytical prospects. These data were therefore used to answer two main questions: Is the work context in small enterprises in Québec different from that in medium-sized and large enterprises? If so, are the differences reflected in effects on occupational health and safety?

A selection of EQCOTESST (2007-2008) data was used to document facets of both the work context and the occupational health and safety of the Québec employees targeted by the survey: sociodemographic characteristics, characteristics of the main job, work schedules and employee benefits, work environment and demands, general health and health problems. Bivariate analyses were performed. All aspects of the methodology were congruent with those used in the EQCOTESST (2007-2008) (Vézina et al., 2001), and the results presented were statistically significant, at a level of 0.05.

Overall, the results confirmed that the work context varies according to enterprise size, and that small enterprises differ from medium-sized and large enterprises in this regard For general health and health problems, the bivariate analyses revealed a few differences according to enterprise size with regard to the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in employees.

Significant differences according to enterprise size were evidenced in all facets of the work context. The results presented, based on significant crossings between the documented job and work characteristics and enterprise size, revealed differences between employees of SEs and those of large enterprises in all cases, as well as differences between employees of SEs and those of medium-sized enterprises in approximately half of the cases. On the whole, the two subcategories of small enterprises (i.e. 1 to 20 employees and 21 to 50 employees) had a similar profile. The fact that they were analyzed separately added significant information for only a small number of characteristics.

The results, which confirm significant differences between small enterprises and larger enterprises with respect to several job and work characteristics, may help provide strategic direction for future research and support OHS interventions in SEs.

Additional Information

Category: Research Report
  • Danièle Champoux
  • Pascale Prud’homme
Research Project: 2012-0025
Online since: November 06, 2017
Format: Text