Safer workplaces save employers money

LLOYDMINSTER, Alta. Regardless of how many safety measures a company or individual employee takes, injuries on the workplace are inevitable – and this is why the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) exists.

Companies in the trucking industry by law must be registered with the WCB, and considering, as WCB modified work account manager Deborah Nilsen pointed out, that the general trucking sector had the second highest claims costs for workplace accidents, behind only construction, it’s vital that employees are properly attended to when injured.

“In the perfect world, there is no WCB needed,” Nilsen told attendees of the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA) 2016 Lloydminster Safety Conference and Trade Show. “Things do happen, people do get injured.”

Nilsen said that when employees do get injured, an early and safe return to the workplace is ‘instrumental.’

“You have to take charge of this,” she said, highlighting the fact that the WCB is an insurance company, and like any insurer, the more a company uses or submits a claim with them, the higher premiums that company will end up paying, as liability increases.

Nilsen advised that when a company does need to submit a claim for an injured worker, it is important that the company manage the situation properly to lower the claim’s costs, which have a direct effect on premiums.

Nilsen said it was ‘frustrating’ when companies do not properly follow safety measures, as it simply ends up having a effect on the business’ premiums, causing them to rise.

Based on $100 of insurable earnings, the average premium costs with the WCB is $1.01. Those in the general trucking business pay $3.58, and specialized trucking forks over $2.43. The highest premiums were $5.75 and the lowest came in at 14 cents.

“This is all in your hands,” Nilsen said, asking managers to look at their claim’s costs and implement proper safety programs to help minimize workplace injuries and costs. She added that the range in cost one company can pay for its yearly premiums to another is $343,000.

Nilsen’s presentation also stressed the importance of getting injured employees back to work in one capacity or another, saying ‘time was of the essence.’

“We need to keep the worker feeling like a worker,” she explained, saying that it’s not laziness that leads an injured employee to sit around and do nothing, it’s a mindset. Nilsen said providing modified work duties to an injured worker can have several advantages, including boosting the moral of the employee and, for the company, getting at least some level of productivity out of the injured worker.

“It’s so much more productive to have people going back to work than being at home in that downward spiral,” Nilsen said. Reducing disability days and getting an injured employee back to work with modified duties must meet certain criteria, which include meeting the worker’s restrictions, engaging them in the workforce, promoting gradual restoration back to regular duties, work must be meaningful and productive and it must not create financial hardship for the employee. Nilsen admitted that there was a lot of gray area when it comes to a WCB claim and hat situations are not always clear or black and white.

“Things can change quickly with regards to a claim,” she said. “We are seeing with the economic downturn, there are a lot of interesting claims coming in.”

The WCB always gives workers the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when it comes of claims, which is why Nilsen said it was so important for companies to ensure they submit all the information about an incident they possibly can.

Companies and employees can appeal a claim for up to one year after a decision has been made. Employers pay 100% of the premium costs for WCB, and workers give up their right to sue in the event of an injury. The WCB is not-for-profit and also a no-fault insurer. It represents an estimated 161,000 companies, covering over two million workers. Each province has its own WCB, as it is not a national entity.

Derek Clouthier

A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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