Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board CEO Kurt Dieckmann speaks at Thursday’s press conference in Whitehorse. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Claims, costs increase for Yukon workers’ compensation system

Board says it still has more money than it needs to cover liabilities

In 2017, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board accepted 55 more claims than it did in 2016.

“That is 1,043 compared to 988,” said Mark Pike, chair of the board of directors, on June 7.

The board’s recent financials presented at the event show $25.6 million was spent on claims in 2017, which is $7.1 million more than 2016. The the revenue and income of the board’s compensation fund totalled $40.6 million in 2017 versus $32 million in 2016.

The worker’s compensation system has 143 per cent of the money it needs to cover its liabilities. That’s down from 150 per cent last year, but still higher than the goal of 121 to 129 per cent. Typically, that means worker’s compensation premiums in many sectors of the economy will drop.

The board says it will release the new rates before the end of August to help employers plan for the coming year.

Pike and the board’s president and CEO Kurt Dieckmann also announced a new strategic plan.

That plan has five goals, which can be found online at wcb.yk.ca, including that “all Yukoners participate in a culture of safety and prevention of physical and psychological injury.”

An audience of roughly 25 listened to the presentation and asked questions.

Justin Lemphers, with the Yukon Federation of Labour, highlighted the 36 mental health claims that were made in 2017, of which 19 were accepted.

He asked about the kinds of workplace hazards being assessed when occupational health and safety inspectors go into a workplace.

“They’re looking for physical hazards, issues that they might come across,” said Lemphers. “Are they going to be given tools, resources, to look at potential psychological stressors, triggers? Or are they going to be focussing solely on the physical?”

Dieckmann confirmed that inspectors do mostly look at factors related to physical injury, but said they do also look for things that could cause psychological injury.

“We’ve done a number of inspections where we found that there haven’t been policies in place for reducing incidents of violence and those kinds of things,” said Dieckmann.

“Now we don’t have strong regulations in that area, but if you recall last year when the PTSD presumption was put in place, there was also an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act which allowed for the creation of regulations for the prevention of psychological injury so we will be starting work on those regulations and you will be hearing consultation on that in the coming months … with that will come a steep learning curve for our folks and for all the employers in the territory so stay tuned.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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