A Comparative Analysis of Workplace Safety Trends in the USA and Canada

Posted 29.02.24 by:

A comparative analysis of workplace safety trends in the USA and Canada by Jeremy Shantz. Learn all about workplace safety and hazard prevention using the 1st Reporting mobile app at 1stReporting.com.

In the year 2022, the robust economic partnership between Canada and the United States saw the exchange of goods and services valued at an impressive $908.9 billion. Yet, beneath this thriving economic collaboration lies a compelling divergence in the realm of workplace safety trends. 

This analysis seeks to unravel the intricacies behind these distinct statistics, shedding light on the current climate of health and safety at work in both nations. More importantly, it aims to present actionable insights and potential avenues for change that can align these two economic powerhouses to the benefit of both their workforces and the organizations that employ them.

In the pursuit of this comparative examination, we embark on a journey of exploration to comprehend the fundamental variables that define workplace safety in Canada and the USA. Our journey begins with a deep dive into the labor force of both nations, seeking to discern the commonalities and disparities that have shaped their respective safety landscapes.

Analysis Highlights

  • Similar Labor Force Growth: Both the USA and Canada have experienced similar rates of labor force growth from 2013 to 2023. It suggests that the workforce in both countries has been expanding at a comparable pace.
  • Decrease in Workplace Fatalities: Despite the growing labor force in both countries, there has been a slight overall decrease in workplace fatalities from 2003 to 2022. It indicates that efforts in workplace safety and regulations have been effective in reducing the number of fatal accidents on the job.
  • Decline in Injury Rates: Both the recorded cases of injuries and the total recordable case rate for injuries and illnesses at work have steadily declined in the USA between 2002 and 2022. This trend indicates an improvement in workplace safety measures and practices.
  • Canadian Workplace Fatalities: While Canadian workplace fatalities have also slightly decreased overall, they remain at similar levels to those of 20 years ago, despite the growth in the labor force. It suggests that there may be room for further improvement in workplace safety in Canada.
  • Increase in Lost Time Accidents in Canada: A notable change is the steady increase in Canada’s annual lost time accidents from 2010 to 2022. This trend may indicate challenges or specific issues in certain industries or regions in Canada that need to be addressed to reduce workplace accidents leading to lost time.
  • Industry-Specific Trends: In both countries, specific industries stand out regarding their workplace injuries and illnesses. For example, nursing in the USA and health care and social assistance in Canada have higher incidence rates. It highlights the importance of tailored safety measures and regulations for these industries.
  • Focus on Prevention: The data suggests that ongoing efforts to improve workplace safety and reduce workplace injuries have been successful in both countries. However, it’s crucial to continue focusing on prevention strategies, especially in industries with higher incident rates, to enhance workplace safety further.

Labor Force Comparison

A graph showing USA Labor Force Size Data 2013 to 2023. Learn more about labor and mobile incident reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (2)

The global pandemic slowed the growth of the labor force in both Canada and the United States. The peak of both countries was in 2019, while only a year later, both would see labor force sizes drop to mid-2015 levels. A strong return by mid-2021 helped both countries’ labor forces return to pre-pandemic growth rates.

A graph showing the labor force size data from Canada from 2013 to 2023. Learn more about mobile work forces and field reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (3)

Canada and the United States have shared very similar labor force growth rates over the last ten years. Canada has shown slightly higher growth over 2022 and 2023, but overall, both countries share similar rates of labor force growth. As of 2023, according to these figures, Canada’s labor force was 14.9% of that of the United States, with a labor force size ratio of 1:6.7, respectively.

Workplace Fatalities, Injury and Illness Rates

Workplace Fatalities


A graph showing the USA workplace fatalities from 2003 to 2022. Learn more about prevention and hazard reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (4)

US workplace fatalities have been somewhat erratic over the last two decades, with a noticeable drop in numbers from 2008 to 2015. The trend has been a reasonably steady decline despite the growth in labor force size. Over the last twenty years, the average annual workplace fatalities in the US was 5413.

Taking the latest numbers for 2022, if we take the total labor force and fatalities, we can deduce a fatality rate of 0.0041%.


A graph showing the Canadian workplace fatalities by year, from 2002 to 2022. Learn more about reporting incidents before they become fatalities at 1stReporting.com.


The average for Canadian workplace fatalities has remained somewhat constant. In the early 2000’s it was around 1000 deaths per year and dropped to about 980 deaths per year by 2022 in Canadian workplaces.

Looking at the latest figures for the 2022 fatality rate versus the labor force size in Canada, we can deduce a fatality rate of 0.0049%, considerably higher than the US rate of 0.0041%.

A graph showing the total recorded cases of injury and illness at work in USA from 2002 to 2022. Graph courtesy of Jeremy Shantz of Farm 6 Media on behalf of 1st Reporting. Learn more about incident reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (5)

As you can see, despite the growth of the American labor force, we see a steady decline in cases of illness and injury in workplaces across the nation. 

A graph showing the total recordable case rate, injuries and illnesses in USA from 2002 to 2022. Graph by Jeremy Shantz of Farm 6 Media on behalf of 1st Reporting - The best in field reporting management apps for today's business. Learn more at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (5)

Similarly, and as expected, we see a steady decline in the total recordable case rate for injuries and illnesses caused by work in the United States over the past two decades. These numbers tell us that the US is on the right path regarding workplace injury and illness prevention, as the numbers would suggest.

A graph showing the Canadian annual lost time claims from 2010 to 2022. Chart by Jeremy Shantz on behalf of 1st Reporting - The ultimate in field reporting management. Learn more about field reporting and data management at 1stReporting.com.


Looking at Canada’s numbers tells a different tale. If we look at the annual lost time claims, we see a similar growth trend to the labor force size. One might anticipate that the injury rate has stayed somewhat constant, thus staying in an equal ratio to the labor force growth rate. 

The jump in lost time claims from 2020 to the end of 2022 shows that there were renewed accidents and incidents in the post-pandemic job market in Canada. It makes one wonder if the whole country didn’t rush back to work without doing their stretches first. It’s as though the labor force was ill-prepared to go back to work, as the massive jump in lost time accident claims would suggest.

Industry-Specific Analysis

Both Canada and the United States of America show a significantly higher amount of injuries and illnesses in healthcare industries.

A bar chart showing the top ten incidence rates by industry. Learn more about incident reporting and field operations management at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (15)

In the top ten incident rate industry verticals, we see that healthcare-related industry verticals have the highest rate of incidence. The US shows four out of ten of the leading industry verticals directly associated with and included in what is summed as Healthcare in Canada. However, in Canada, the statistics also lump social assistance with healthcare.

If we were to group social assistance-related industries such as correctional institutions, and if we also include veterinary services with healthcare (just not for humans), then we can see that 6/10 of the results could go into a single category. It may explain the discrepancy when comparing the two countries.

A bar chart showing the top work lost time accidents by industry, Canada 2022. Learn more about accident and incident reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Source: (16)

It is interesting to note that Health Care and Social Assistance is, by orders of magnitude, more significant than any other vertical. Not only that, but the Healthcare vertical would take the following five industries combined in order to match the number of work-lost-time accidents.

Another interesting point when comparing Canadian lost time accidents with American incident rates is the apparent discrepancy with secondary industry vertical. For example, in Canada, we see that the Manufacturing and Construction sectors fall into second and third place, respectively. 

However, in the United States, neither construction nor manufacturing makes it into the top ten. This discrepancy may be further exaggerated by the breakdown of Healthcare industries in the US, whereas in Canada, all Healthcare and social assistance roles are grouped into a single vertical.

Safety Regulations Comparison

The workplace safety regulations in Canada and the USA share several similarities but also exhibit critical differences due to their respective legal systems, government structures, and historical development. Here’s an overview of the main distinctions between the two countries’ workplace safety regulations:

Regulatory Authorities

Canada: In Canada, workplace safety regulations are primarily governed at the provincial or territorial level. Each province and territory in Canada has its own occupational health and safety legislation and regulatory authorities responsible for enforcing these laws.

USA: In the United States, workplace safety regulations fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the US federal agency responsible for regulating and enforcing workplace safety standards(17). Some states also have their own state-level OSHA programs that cover public sector employees.

Regulatory Framework

Canada: Canadian provinces and territories have their own distinct sets of occupational health and safety regulations, which can result in variations from one jurisdiction to another. However, there are common principles and standards outlined in federal legislation, such as the Canada Labour Code, which applies to federally regulated industries(18).

USA: OSHA sets and enforces workplace safety standards at the federal level, which apply to most private sector employers across the country. States with their own state OSHA programs must have standards at least as stringent as national OSHA standards, but they can also have additional regulations.

Specific Regulations

Canada: While there are variations among provinces and territories, Canadian workplace safety regulations commonly cover areas such as hazard identification, safety training, personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency response, and workplace inspections.

USA: OSHA regulations in the USA cover a wide range of safety topics, including hazard communication, fall protection, electrical safety, machinery safety, and respiratory protection, among others.

Both Canada and the United States follow internationally accepted standards such as NFPA. However, technically, Canada publishes its own set of codes, even if they are highly similar or the same as both NFPA and ICC. The primary difference is that the Canadian version is published by a government-controlled agency (National Research Council). In contrast, in the USA, these codes are set forth by non-profit organizations(19).

Worker Rights and Protections:

Canada: Canadian workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, and there are mechanisms in place to protect employees who report safety concerns.

USA: In the USA, workers also have the right to refuse unsafe work, and OSHA provides protections for whistleblowers who report safety violations.

Enforcement Actions


Canada: Each province and territory in Canada has its own occupational health and safety enforcement agency responsible for conducting inspections, issuing citations, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations.

USA: OSHA is responsible for enforcing workplace safety regulations at the federal level in the USA. State-level OSHA programs handle enforcement in states with their programs.

Compliance and Penalties:

Canada: Penalties for non-compliance with occupational health and safety regulations vary by province and territory. Fines and penalties may be assessed for violations. Penalties in Canadian provinces typically also affect insurance and compensation rate multipliers, which can dramatically affect the business costs of claims.

USA: OSHA can impose fines and penalties on employers for violations of workplace safety regulations. Penalties can vary based on the severity of the breach and whether it led to injury or death.

Below is a chart showing OSHA inspection counts, workplace deaths, catastrophe and fatality-triggered inspection counts, and complaint-causing inspection counts. What is interesting here are a few things:

  1. From 2019 to 2020, the number of inspections due to complaints dropped while the number of worker fatalities also dropped, yet the number of deaths or catastrophe inspections rose.
  2. Complaint inspections rose dramatically between 2021 and 2022, showing a higher-than-normal spike in workplace safety complaints in a post-pandemic work environment.
Workplace deaths vs. OSHA inspections data comparison by Jeremy Shantz on behalf of 1st Reporting. Learn more about field data and analysis at 1stReporting.com.

Workplace Safety Initiatives

Both Canada and the United States regularly strive to improve working conditions for their people. Here are a few initiatives that have been launched over the last decade in either country that have helped to create safer work conditions.


Pandemic Response: Both federal and provincial/territorial governments in Canada implemented various workplace safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures included guidelines on physical distancing, mask-wearing, and workplace safety plans to protect employees and prevent the spread of the virus.

COVID-19-related workplace safety measures and guidelines were implemented in Canada starting in early 2020 and continued to evolve throughout 2020 and into 2021—the specific dates and measures varied by province and territory.

Mental Health in the Workplace: There has been a growing emphasis on mental health in the workplace in Canada. Employers and governments have been working to address mental health issues, reduce stigma, and provide resources and support for employees.

Mental health initiatives have been ongoing for several years, with an increasing focus in the last decade. Specific programs and policies may have been introduced at various times by different employers and provinces.

Violence and Harassment Prevention: Several provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia, introduced or updated regulations related to preventing workplace violence and harassment. These regulations aimed to protect workers from psychological and physical harm.

Regulations related to preventing workplace violence and harassment have been introduced or updated in various provinces over several years, with some provinces implementing changes around 2018-2019.


COVID-19 Workplace Safety: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, OSHA in the United States issued guidelines and standards to help employers protect their workers from exposure to the virus. These guidelines included recommendations on mask-wearing, social distancing, and sanitation practices.

OSHA issued guidelines and standards related to COVID-19 workplace safety in 2020, with updates continuing into 2021. These guidelines evolved as more information became available about the virus.

Silica Rule: OSHA implemented a new standard for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule aimed to reduce the risk of lung cancer, silicosis, and other silica-related diseases by limiting worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica in various industries.

OSHA’s silica standard was finalized in 2016, with staggered implementation deadlines for various industries over several years. Full enforcement of the rule took place in 2018.

Electronic Recordkeeping Rule: OSHA introduced a rule requiring certain employers to submit injury and illness data electronically. This initiative aimed to improve transparency and allow OSHA to use the data to target workplace safety inspections more effectively.

OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule, which required certain employers to submit injury and illness data electronically, was introduced in 2016. Data submission began in 2017.

Workplace Violence Prevention: Some states, such as California, developed specific regulations to address workplace violence prevention, particularly in healthcare and social service settings. These rules required employers to implement violence prevention plans.

Specific state regulations addressing workplace violence prevention in healthcare and social service settings, such as California’s regulations, have been introduced over several years, with some becoming effective in 2020.

More recently, Senate Bill 553 was signed into law by Gavin Newsom, Governor of California. The bill requires most California employers to prepare a Workplace Violence Plan. This plan must also include team member training and a violent incident log. Implementation is a requirement by July 1, 2024 (20).

Yearly Safety Rankings

Several sources say that both Canada and The United States fare well on the world stage in terms of workplace safety.

According to Statista, neither the US nor Canada is in the top list of eight of the world’s most dangerous countries for workers(21)

Similarly, when we analyze the most dangerous countries to work in based on the rate of fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries, we see that, again, neither Canada nor the USA makes it to the top 11 countries(22).

Taking data retrieved and shared earlier in this analysis, we can draw some interesting conclusive points to reflect better the more accurate annual safety rankings for this analysis:

  • There were 3.57 million cases of injury in the USA in 2022 out of 134 million workers. That’s 2.66% of workers in the United States who had a recordable workplace injury in 2022.
  • There were 348,000 lost-time accidents in Canada in 2022 out of the 20 million workers. That’s 1.74% of workers who had a lost-time accident at work in 2022. Further research into Canada’s numbers for a better comparison, looking at each province’s injury rates, the worst in 2020 was Manitoba, coming in at 2.55%(23). That’s still .11 percent lower than the US national average for 2022.


Overall, the data indicates progress in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities in both the USA and Canada. Still, it also points to the need for ongoing vigilance and targeted efforts to address specific challenges, such as the increase in lost time accidents in Canada and the industry-specific variations in incident rates. This information can be valuable for policymakers, organizations, and safety professionals in both countries as they work to create safer working environments.

What will your organization do to change the trends in Canada or to continue the trend in the United States? If your organization operates in either or both of these labor markets, what policies will make the difference for your teams?

Article Sources

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